5 July 2016
by Luisa Eymer
On June 23rd the starting gun for the referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU was fired. The vote was considered a milestone in British history not only due to its profound implications but also due to the highly speculative nature of outcomes.
Global markets were in shock when the ballot was cast and it became clear that 52% of the votes were in favor of leaving the EU. Since then, Britain has found itself in a state of uncertainty accompanied by a stock market plunge and a 30-year low of the British pound.
The confusion over the consequences of the Brexit was also reflected by the British citizen’s online search behavior. Google was able to shed a revealing perspective on voters’ behavior by analyzing spikes in key word searches on June 23rd. According to Google Trends, hours after the polls closed Britons were frenetically googeling “What is the EU?” and “What happens if we leave the EU”. One might ask whether answers to these questions should have been found before. Google also reported sharp rises for the search terms “Move to Gibraltar”, “What if the pound collapses?” and “Buy gold” – underlining the rather dark economic prognosis for the country.
Meanwhile, race-related crimes have sharply risen in the aftermath of the Brexit as right-winged groups started to offend ethnic minorities such as the Polish migrants in the UK. Once more Google was at the front of happenings, this time taking a regulating role. Google-owned Youtube and Facebook were reported to use automation technology as means to remove extremist content from their sites. Automation technology is based upon filtering for “hashes”, a type of digital fingerprint. “Hashes” can be automatically assigned to specific content, thereby allowing the quick removal of identical text elements.
On a lighter note, Britons presented themselves in shape during the current European championship. Nonetheless, this year’s “kick-it-like Beckham” came to an early end with 2:1 win of the Icelandic team against the Brits.