Project description

\’Allô Place Beauvau\’ tracks events of police violence against the \’Yellow Vests\’ movement in France. Each case is first reported on the Twitter account of the freelance reporter David Dufresne and is then automatically integrated into a database that generates a constantly updated data visualisation. Each case is documented – photos, videos, medical certificates, complaints.

This database is then deployed on the Mediapart website and offers many levels of reading:
– a collection of maps, week after week, over the weekly events, which includes all reports.
– a database by type of injury caused, type of weapon, location, law enforcement involved. Details of events and visual archives are displayed in a long scrolling, to highlight the dizziness of the figures and facts – hands ripped out, eyes gouged out, violence of all kinds.

The questioning is of a civic, journalistic and political nature (the \’Place Beauvau\’ is both the HQ and nickname of the Ministry of the Interior). At first it was aimed to break the media silence about police violence. A silence that was coupled with political denial, covering the greatest repression in 50 years, in France, of a social movement.

The map collection highlights a narrative, and is supported by a selection of quotes providing political context: the dramatization of the Minister of the Interior, the paternalism of the President, the display of firmness by the Prime Minister, and finally the denial of violence caused by the instructions given to regional State representatives (\’préfets\’).

The visual aspect of these maps is deliberately minimalist, even brutalist with the use of the yellow color on a black background – the most contrasted colors available to us. Most importantly, they are an effective tool. On the website, each small map leads to a page dedicated to the ‘Acte’ in question, with a larger map that allows everyone to see exactly what happened in a particular city, at each stage.

The target audience has been in turn: victims, relatives of victims, journalists, NGOs, police unions, politicians.

The project, initially volunteer-based, was funded by the information website Mediapart.

What makes this project innovative?

The project innovates on many levels: it is based on both urgency – violence every saturday – and long time – four months of daily updates. 'Allô Place Beauvau' is based on contemporary uses of the Internet: the census is available on Twitter, with free access, and the data visualisation, which provides real added value, is available for Mediapart subscribers. We had to develop a specific algorithm for the map layout, in order to make sure that the city labels (inferred automatically from the database) don't overlap. 'Allô Place Beauvau' is 80% automated, reducing the time between the event and its review. Using open sources (mostly Twitter and Facebook videos), 'Allô Place Beauvau' pays tribute to social networks as a possible source of information. The rigorous journalistic treatment, case by case, makes it possible to validate, or not, what is circulating there.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

After a month of underground work, 'Allô Place Beauvau' has truly made the news in France, forcing the media, politicians and NGOs to break their silence. The data visualisation, thanks to its graphic strength and continuous updates, has largely contributed to the success of the project. The Twitter account of the journalist behind the project, David Dufresne, went from 14,000 followers to 52,000 in four months. The monthly impressions of his tweets, which amounted to a few tens of thousands in November 2018, have now risen to many million. - December 2018: 6.01 million impressions - January 2019: 25.9 million impressions - February 2019: 16.8 million impressions - March 2019: 20.9 million impressions From the end of January to the end of March, the website 'Allô Place Beauvau' reached 199 000 unique visitors. On the political level, the project manager of 'Allô Place Beauvau' has been heard: - in Paris, on 28 January 2019, by Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, for her report of 26 February 2019. - in Strasbourg at the European Parliament, on 13 February 2019, where he was invited to give a press conference. - in Paris, on 20 February 2019, by the Senate Law Commission, which wanted to table a law against the use of certain weapons in law enforcement. His work was also quoted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, on 6 March 2019. In terms of media coverage, the project has received extreme attention from almost all French media (television, radio, print media), as well as from the US (The New York Times), English (The Guardian), Canadian (Radio Canada), Swiss (RTS), Italian and Spanish press.

Source and methodology

The methodology is included in the project itself. On such a sensitive subject (police violence), transparency is necessary. Readers therefore have access to both our data and working methods. Each report possesses at least one documented trace: presence of at least one video or photo, medical certificate, complaint filed, and/or reliable link (local press, etc.). Since the project began to have success, our reports are mainly based on direct testimonies from victims, their relatives or lawyers, but also on the many testimonies and Twitter alerts received by email or direct messages on Twitter. About ten Twitter users have spontaneously begun sending possible reports, and about thirty do it in a more irregular way. The @davduf Twitter account has received up to 7000 notifications per week, including a very large number of duplicates. As the cross-factchecking work is particularly delicate, we have published a leaflet indicating how victims and witnesses can help us, in particular by sending copies of their medical certificates, ID papers, and as precise descriptions as possible of the circumstances, dates and places of the violence.

Technologies Used

The project being based on current events, happening every week, and the amount of reports to handle being tremendous, we needed a platform that could be used by multiple people at the same time to access, verify, de-duplicate and enrich the database of reports. We chose to use Airtable for this. The starting point for each report is a tweet by @davduf, so we built scripts that automatically retrieve the latest tweets and append them to the Airtable. We developed other scripts to parse the content of the tweets and extract as much data as possible (date, city, weapons used...). Then, the contributors were able to manually add more info, such as first name, age and description of the victims, police forces involved, etc. To build the website, we quickly elected to use a static site generator, for performance, security and ease of hosting. We picked Middleman which is a Ruby-based, mature tool. As Airtable provides an API for each data table, we were able to build a automated pipeline that: adds the latest tweets, enriches them, downloads the whole database from Airtable, uses this data to generate the static website, then deploys the update to the hosting platform (Netlify). The source code is hosted on Gitlab, where this publishing pipeline is automatically run every hour, thanks to Gitlab CI. We built the website using web standards – HTML, CSS and JavaScript. The diagrams and maps were build with SVG, some statically with Illustrator, and other dynamically with D3.js. The maps make use of D3’s various layouts (geo and force layout) to make sure that everything is properly visible and labels don’t overlap. We also built several scripts to archive the tweets and backup their medias, as it quickly appeared that many of them became unavailable after a short while, for various reasons: each image is uploaded to Cloudinary, each video to YouTube, in order to keep them accessible in the long run.

Project members

Alerts David Dufresne Design Valentin de Bruyn (Etamin Studio) Maxime Zoffoli Cartography Philippe Rivière (Visionscarto) Web development Hans Lemuet (Etamin Studio) Automation & scrapping Nicolas Boeuf (We Do Data) Production Michael Hadjenberg, Donatien Huet (Mediapart)


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