Communication Technology and Reports on Political Violence

AuthorMihai Croicu,Joakim Kreutz
Date01 March 2017
Published date01 March 2017
Subject MatterArticles
Political Research Quarterly
2017, Vol. 70(1) 19 –31
© 2016 University of Utah
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1065912916670272
Recent technological and methodological innovations
offer improved access to information from conflict zones
that previously were hidden from view. The ability to
collect and analyze event data provides contemporary
scholars with opportunities to explore micro-level mech-
anisms of repression, mobilization, and strategies of vio-
lence (K. Gleditsch, Metternich, and Ruggeri 2014).
Yet, we know little about possible bias in the data
provided by projects such as the Uppsala Conflict Data
Program (UCDP), Armed Conflict Location & Event
Data Project (ACLED), or the Political Instability Task
Force Worldwide Atrocities Dataset. In contrast to the
extensive literature on bias in newspaper-sourced data
(Earl et al. 2004; Fleeson 2003; Franzosi 1987; Galtung
and Ruge 1965; Snyder and Kelly 1977; Woolley 2000),
there have been few efforts to explore the quality of “Big
Data” in the Internet age (notable exceptions include
Price and Ball 2014; Weidmann 2015, 2016).
In this paper, we investigate whether access to com-
munication technology can account for spatial variation
with regard to the quality in conflict data. Drawing on the
media studies literature (Domingo and Paterson 2011;
Fenton 2010), we expect journalists who directly can be
in contact with primary sources through Internet and
mobile phones will be able to provide more detailed
reports about political violence. Considering that details
are essential for data collection projects to identify
perpetrators, severity, and targets for political violence
(Kreutz 2015b), we contend that even a marginal improve-
ment in quality may substantially influence information
used in much contemporary conflict scholarship. In par-
ticular, our study may be important for the growing inter-
est in whether modern communication technology assists
organized crime, terrorism, or insurgency (Andreas 2002;
Pierskalla and Hollenbach 2013; Shapiro and Weidmann
2015; Weimann 2006). If, as we expect, information about
violence is better reported in areas with developed com-
munication structures, then we cannot know whether tech-
nological advancement actually does increase violence or
if such correlations are spurious.
Empirically, we focus on the quality of reporting
political violence in Africa from 2008 to 2010. There are
three reasons for this. First, Africa is the region that,
together with Asia, has experienced the most armed
conflicts in the post–Cold War era.1 Second, Africa
is becoming known as “the mobile continent” due to
670272PRQXXX10.1177/1065912916670272Political Research QuarterlyCroicu and Kreutz
1Uppsala University, Sweden
2Stockholm University, Sweden
Corresponding Author:
Joakim Kreutz, Department of Political Science, Stockholm University,
Stockholm, Sweden.
Communication Technology and
Reports on Political Violence:
Cross-National Evidence Using
African Events Data
Mihai Croicu1 and Joakim Kreutz2
The spread of Internet and mobile phone access around the world has implications for both the processes of
contentious politics and subsequent reporting of protest, terrorism, and war. In this paper, we explore whether
political violent events that occur close to modern communication networks are systematically better reported than
others. Our analysis approximates information availability by the level of detail provided about the date of each
political violent event in Africa from 2008 to 2010 and finds that although access to communication technology
improves reporting, the size of the effect is very small. Additional investigation finds that the effect can be attributed
to the ability of journalists to access more diverse primary sources in remote areas due to increased local access to
modern communication technology.
communication technology, conflict event data, media bias, civil war, spatial analysis, data quality

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