It is now possible to automatically identify dangerous individuals through pinpoint observation
Scientists of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) worked together with the U.S. Army and the Brandeis University to develop a method of identifying extremists. They observe their social media accounts and are able to find dangerous individuals even before they publish threatening content.
“Social media has become a powerful platform for extremist groups, ranging from ISIS to white nationalist “alt-right” groups,” said Tauhid Zaman from MIT.
The researchers collected Twitter data from approximately 5,000 “seed” users who were either known ISIS members or who were connected to many known ISIS members as friends or followers. They got their names through news stories, blogs, and reports released by law enforcement agencies or think tanks.
In addition to reviewing the content of 4.8 million tweets from these users’ timelines, they also tracked account suspensions, as well as any suspensions of their friends and followers accounts. Through statistic modelling of extremist behaviour with optimized strategies ans real ISIS user data the researchers were able to predict new extremist users. They were able to identify if a user has multiple accounts or could predict which extremists could create a new account.
Applicable to all networks
“We created a new set of operational capabilities to deal with the threat posed by online extremists in social networks,” said Christopher E. Marks from the U.S. Army. “We are able to predict who is an extremist before they post any content, and then able to predict where they will re-enter the network after they are suspended. In short, we can automatically figure out who is an extremist and keep them of the social network.”
Even though this reasearch project focused only on Twitter data, it should be applicable to all social media networks.
“Users that engage in some form of online extremism or harassment will have very similar behavioral characteristics in social networks,” said Jytte Klausen, Brandeis University. “They will connect to a specific set of users which form their extremist group. They will create new accounts which will resemble their old accounts after being suspended, and when the return to the social network following a suspension, there is a high probability they will reconnect with certain former friends.”