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Who was Hillary E-Mailing? What Big Data Can Tell Us

Hillary Clinton Secretary of State GraphWhile we wait for the FOIA release of official records that she has handed over, we can get a glimpse of what two-way messages we are most likely to find in the diplomat's inbox by using big data. A simple network analysis of media coverage of her position as secretary of state offers insight into her contact list and correspondence-a-la-statecraft.

Unfortunately, once the public gains access to her private-public emails, they still won't be the whole crop, as she has had the luxury of selectively deciding which fall under the jurisdiction of her former employer. I would be reluctant to turn over my emails too.

Still, as a high-profile diplomat, plenty of her digital dialogue should be pretty predictable. Aside from a handful of cat photos, a few caustic remarks to staff, and maybe some confusing late-night mobile responses, this hubbub could be all over some run of the mill work emails. Don't be surprised WikiLeaks isn't overloaded with new incriminating details when the records go public.

Moreover, and more importantly, if you think she's near-sighted enough to endanger her career in writing, you may be missing the big picture. Anyone with the expert-level decision to load a home server to handle email privately probably isn't going to waste a shot at being the first US female head of state.

The data comes from the GDELT Global Knowledge Graph, a catalog of the geography, people, and topics that are covered in the global media. By querying the system specifically for countries associated with Hillary Clinton's role as diplomat, some of her network is revealed. Other queries, not shown here, yield her US colleagues in the Senate and executive branch.

This densely packed network could reflect the intimacy she had with various nations that the US maintains diplomatic relations with as well as places where she has focused her attention as the country's head of foreign affairs.

Usual suspects like China, UK, and Russia, appear as prominent dark blues (with the US being the darkest) and located centrally. Other major players like the major Middle East powers form a second rung, along with the rest of NAFTA, African powerhouses, and South- and East-Asia.

This graph shows the scope of Hillary Clinton's network in her role as secretary of state, it doesn't show us what working relationships she might have had with her peers, which we won't learn until the emails are released. However, we can use an analysis like this to determine if there are some missing pieces. By charting her network empirically, gaps in correspondence between leaders could be noted and encourage further investigation.

Still, if there do seem to be critical mismatches in the records compared to her actions, it doesn't mean that the emails were unduly trashed, it could mean that she relied on less permanent communications such as phone calls, face-to-face meetings, or other communiques we plebs aren't meant to see anyhow.



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