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The Battle to Prevent Another January 6 Features a New Weapon: The Algorithm

By The Washington Post

January 6, 2022

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For many Americans who witnessed the attack on the Capitol last Jan. 6, the idea of mobs of people storming a bedrock of democracy was unthinkable.

For the data scientists who watched it unfold, the reaction was a little different: We've been thinking about this for a long time.

The sentiment comes from a small group working in a cutting-edge field known as unrest prediction. The group takes a promising if fraught approach that applies the complex methods of machine-learning to the mysterious roots of political violence. Centered since its inception a number of years ago on the developing world, its systems since last Jan. 6 are slowly being retooled with a new goal: predicting the next Jan. 6.

"We now have the data — and opportunity — to pursue a very different path than we did before," said Clayton Besaw, who helps run CoupCast, a machine-learning-driven program based at the University of Central Florida that predicts the likelihood of coups and electoral violence for dozens of countries each month.


From The Washington Post
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