The discussion about terrorism made the front pages of most of the newspapers after the Orlando massacre. With the new algorithm that tries to predict terrorist attacks, now it becomes a topic to be debated in science magazines also.
Prior to his attack in Orlando, Omar Mateen was investigated by FBI on two occasions. His Facebook page contained references to the Islamic State and, reportedly, he used social media to look for pieces of information about the San Bernardino massacre, which took place in December 2015.
However, it is hard to predict a terrorist attack by simply checking the online activity of a single person. As President Obama already explained two days after the Orlando massacre, the movement of lone actors or small groups is very hard to foresee.
However, scientists claim, it is not impossible to look for online indicators of terrorist propaganda on social media. The experts developed their thesis around one social media platform, called Vkontakte. Unlike Facebook, Vkontakte does not require its users to log in with their real names. However, a phone number is requested during the registration process.
The project started a few years ago with the intent to monitor the social upheaval in Latin America (namely in Brazil and Venezuela). The idea to focus their attention on social media rather than the events happening in the real world came to them along with the Arab Uprising.
With Facebook becoming the main tool to communicate and organize protests, people realized that a closer look at the online algorithms might offer an accurate picture of the main trends in society.
This new algorithm that tries to predict terrorist attacks focuses mainly on the behavioral patterns of the users affiliated with pro-ISIS groups. The research team managed to find almost 200 pro-ISIS public groups on Vkontakte. To avoid moderators and hackers, the users reincarnate themselves each time their profile is hacked or shut down.
And this is how new small groups emerge. To efficiently prevent the aggregation of large, influential groups, counterterrorism agents need to track down small groups and shut them down before the distribution of radical propaganda escalates.
The trend that was noticed so far relates the rapid increase of such groups with an imminent attack. Such a pattern can be a reliable indicator that something may be going on.
However, the new algorithm that tries to predict terrorist attacks has no efficiency in the case of an assault organized by a small group. Because these groups do not leak information on social media, they leave no footprints that can be tracked down.
Online source: Wikipedia