Tracking Mexico’s cartels with Google

Foreign Policy, 11/01/2012

For the vast majority of us, who don’t have access to high-level law enforcement data, the best way to keep track of Mexican drug cartel activity is by reading the newspaper. But with information often dispersed in local sources and reporting on the ground becoming increasingly dangerous, it can be difficult to get a big picture view of how the drug war is progressing. But a new tool developed by two Harvard graduate students could help provide such a broad view.

Viridiana Rios and Michele Coscia have created an algorithm they call MOGO (Making Order Using Google As an Oracle) which processes Google data to track cartel activity. “MOGO does the jobs we could never do,” Rios told me in a phone interview today. “It reads all of the newspapers that have ever been published in the last 20 years and extracts information about whether and when a particular cartel is mentioned and where that cartel is mentioned. We get the organization, the municipality in which it is supposedly operating, and the year in which the note was published.”

Read more…

Rio’s and Coscia’s full report, CosciaRios_GoogleForCriminals