Monitoring a revolution from 6,623 miles away

Customer Spotlight: Rebuilding Algeria

In April of 2019, MarvelousAI partnered with Kamila Kraba and her compatriots at Rebuilding Algeria.1

This group of expats had a big challenge. On February 22nd, 2019, Algerians took to the streets to protest against the fifth term of president Bouteflika. There was a real lack of clarity as to who was leading the protest. Some of the questions they were trying to answer were:

  • Where and how was information disseminated both on the ground inside Algeria and outside the country in news and social media channels? 
  • How could they assist these protesters from afar?

To spice up the challenge, most of the news and social media sources in the conversation were primarily in French and Arabic. 

Sprinkle a little MarvelousAI on it

“Things moved very quickly, but no one knew who was behind the movement,” states Kraba, “… it was all very nebulous, mysterious and overwhelming until April 11th when Marvelous AI came to a meetup to talk about Detecting Political Narratives with Human-in-the-loop NLP. Then, the magic happened.” 

We teamed up, refined our key terms, targeted critical social media outlets and news sources to collect data, and were up and running.

“Very quickly, the tool gave us so much insight.” Kraba recalls, “The top Twitter traffic was coming from accounts from the UAE and the Saudis; we discovered suspicious account activity that suggested some of the accounts were paid trolls. Articles from Al Ain, a Saudi newspaper, had the most tweets on Algeria, and they were pushing a false narrative that terrorists drove the protest movement. Anti-terrorist groups in the US cross-referenced those same articles. We also found that the vast majority of the content was coming from Facebook. One of the key findings was that there was no singular leader or political figure driving the movement. It was truly grassroots.”

Background on the Protests

As reported by the Washington Post, NPR, and The Guardian (to cite a few) these protests were primarily peaceful, even joyful. In Algeria, the protestors refer to the movement as “Revolution of Smiles” or “Hirak Movement.”

Triggered by the prospect of a fifth presidential term for the 82-year-old Bouteflika, protestors took to the streets in a peaceful protest in February of 2019 calling for Bouteflika to resign and urging a fair and democratic election process for a successor. 

Bouteflika did resign on April 2nd, 2019. Senate President Abdelkader Bensalah replaced him. New elections were supposed to take place on July 4th 2019. Those elections were postponed (and remain postponed) because of protestors’ demands for a democratic transition before holding presidential elections. 

Until late June of 2019 authorities had been tolerant of the protestors. Post-June there have been country-wide arrests, and several protestors were detained.  

Recent updates from Human Right Watch show that the authorities have started to jail protestors.

Closing Remarks from Kamila Kraba

“MarvelousAI tools helped Rebuilding Algeria to quickly assess the new political landscape in Algeria and helped us to provide leadership to the movement, giving them access the latest technology advances. We were able to do things differently, better, quicker, and smarter. The Marvelous tool is a symbol of the new Algeria that the youth is fighting for in the streets. Activists in Algeria are now more AI-aware and are using MarvelousAI’s tool to stay on top of the political battle that is still on-going. Thank You, MarvelousAI for all your help!. Special thanks to Olya for all the time you spent with us!”

  1. Rebuilding Algeria, a non-profit that aims at educating Algerians on what it takes to build a civil society based on the rule of law and where every Algerian has a chance to thrive, socialized Marvelous tool with activists and is educating prominent activists to be data-driven

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