LawGit: Visualize the Evolution of European Laws

Contact: Victor Kristof

This project is well-suited for a Master Thesis (or an ambitious Semester Project).

Context

Transparency is crucial to enable trust in the political institutions, but the fabrication of laws is often quite opaque because it is unclear who writes them. Many stakeholders take part in their creation: government executives, administration staff, parliamentarians, lobbyists, and citizens. At each phase of the process, these political actors attempt to shape the text, sometimes in conflictive manners with previous modifications. Drawing inspiration from how version-control systems (e.g., git and svn) are used in software development, we propose to treat laws as peer-produced documents.

Objectives

Version-control systems have been in use for several decades in computer science, and we aim at benefiting from all the features inherent in these systems (such as history traversal, content browsing, and author identification). The goal of this project is to create such a system in the form of a data-visualization platform. We will do so by leveraging a rich dataset of textual edits from the European Parliament collected in our lab [1]. This platform will enable users to access the history of laws through the history of edits that were sequentially applied to a text.

[1] Kristof, Victor, Grossglauser, Matthias, Thiran, Patrick, War of Words: The Competitive Dynamics of Legislative Processes, WWW' 20.

Outcome

If successful, this project and the platform have the potential to raise important research questions in both computer science and political science, as well as to trigger the interest of the general public. We aim at making LawGit the first step of a large-scale, long-term research project.

Requirements

  • Very good programming skills in Python
  • Some experience with Web development (HTML, CSS, JavaScript)
  • Basic knowledge of machine learning, natural language processing, and network science
  • Interest in politics (and their mechanics) a plus

If interested, please send your CV and a transcript of your grades to victor.kristof@epfl.ch.