Google Creates Interactive Visual About Small Arms Trade

Google has created an interactive visualization that shows patterns and trends in imports and exports of small arms and ammunition across the world, which it says is an $8.5 billion industry.

The graphic, which Google built using the open source WebGL Globe on Google’s Chrome Experiments site, shows the earth with fiery lines that indicate countries' imports and exports of ammunition and small arms, such as revolvers, assault rifles, and light machine guns. The United States is white hot with activity—in 2010 it imported $995,769,657 and exported $606,577,243 worth of munitions. That’s up from $272,612,334 and $455,520,281, respectively, in 1992.

The visualization is interactive in that you can manipulate it and zoom in and out of the globe, click on various countries to change the perspective, and use a timeline at the bottom to see trading patterns over the years.

“You can see, for example, that the scale of the global trade in ammunition rivals the scale of trade in actual weapons, an insight underexplored by policymakers today in conflict prevention and resolution,” writes Scott Carpenter, deputy director of Google Ideas, in a recent post on Google’s official blog.

The interactive visualization is part of the Google Ideas initiative on illicit networks and was produced by Google’s Creative Lab team working with the think tank Igarape Institute. The groups used more than 1 million data points garnered from the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) small arms database.

Carpenter also posted a video from the INFO summit hosted by Google Ideas last month in which panelists included arms expert Ian Biddle, a former abducted child soldier in the Uganda National Liberation Front, and Sylvia Longmire, author of “Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars.”

Watch it here.

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