The White House has practically been begging social media companies to help them catch terrorists, as ISIS takes center stage in the fight against terrorism that has been raging in the US since September 11th. A recent briefing from the White House suggests that Facebook could use the algorithm they use to detect potential suicides to detect the radicalism or extremism that leads to terrorist attacks. “We are interested in all options to better identify terrorist networks, or indications of impending plots…Are there ways to glean from changes in patterns of use of these platforms involvement in preparations for violence?” the briefing questions.
It’s already true that a large number of terrorism investigations stem from Tweets either flagged by the FBI or noted by concerned friends or family members. However, most experts – including the ones that matter in law enforcement – believe that it would be nearly impossible to predict terrorist attacks using some algorithm, as there is really no typical behavior that happens right before a terrorist attack on social media. With suicide, there are behavioral patterns, such as reaching out to friends and family for help, making posts thanking people or apologizing, posting about possessions a person who is planning suicide would like to give away etc. However, with terrorism, there isn’t the same usual pattern. This is mainly because, besides what the media would have you believe, there just aren’t enough terrorist attacks to create recognizable patterns, or at least enough patterns for an algorithm. The reason why your bank can detect that your credit card has been stolen, or that Facebook can tell if someone may be suicidal, is because these are events that happen every day so there are buckets and buckets of data about these behavioral patterns. Whereas, since 9/11, there have been only 9 terrorist attacks on US soil, which isn’t a very large data set.
Using an algorithm as a magic solution in social media for terrorism would result in a lot of false positives each of which would have a high cost due to the investigations that would have to occur – and the potential lawsuits from those being investigated. Ever since Edward Snowden uncovered the level of surveillance in the US, people do not want more of that. They want privacy. Understandably this desire is at odds with the government who wants unencrypted communications and backdoors in social media sites.
There are no upcoming events.
© 2015 All DigitalApex. All Rights Reserved.