Wiki wars: Hong Kong’s online frontline

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Reuters

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 28/11/2019

Credit: Manas Sharma, Simon Scarr

Project description:

The Reuters graphics team analysed edit data of Wikipedia pages related to the Hong Kong protests, the city’s leader, and the police force. Anti-police and anti-government sentiment seemed to be gaining momentum so we had the idea of checking if this had made its way into articles of the open online encyclopaedia.

It had, and in a big way. We scraped all of this date to visualise the spikes in editing, show how edit wars played out between users and more seasoned editors, and also show some of the extreme comments made.

Impact reached:

This piece formed part of our Hong Kong graphics coverage and was used extensively during the year. It was shared widely on social media, providing a completely alternative angle to a story that was already heavily covered.  

Techniques/technologies used:

Data from the Wiki pages was scraped programmatically before being analysed and experimented with in R. Visualisations were then exported and styled in Adobe Illustrator before being placed on a web page using ai2html.

Animations, such as the opening summary box, were all made by replicating the ones on Wikipedia using HTML and CSS directly in the browser window.

What was the hardest part of this project?

One of the hardest parts of this project was being sure to input the multitude of balancing voices. We needed to get comment from the police, government, Wikipedia, a Wiki editor involved in the pages, and also someone who specialises in this kind of online behaviour. There was a lot of reporting that went into this graphic.

Coming up with this fresh way to look at the HK story was also a challenge in itself. None of our Hong Kong pieces follow the typical line of news developments. We always try to create unique stories and visualisations.

What can others learn from this project?

Sometimes a new and interesting idea is what makes a project special or unique. Creating something which stands out from the noise of everyone else’s coverage is a way to add value to an ongoing story.

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