Scientists Say an Algorithm May Predict Future Terror Attacks

By Gary Cutlack on at

Researchers analysing the frequency and manner of groups of social media posts claim they can get near to predicting when a terrorist attack might be about to take place.

According to a paper published in Science, the team strafed Russian social network VKontakte for positive mentions of terror mongers ISIS, suggesting there's a correlation between posting by the more aggressive of the site's 90 million monthly users and the likelihood of bad things being imminent.

The messages of some 108,000 users across 196 chat groups were monitored, with head researcher and physicist Neil Johnson saying of the results: "It was like watching crystals forming. We were able to see how people were materializing around certain social groups; they were discussing and sharing information – all in real-time. The question is: Can there be a signal of how people are coming collectively together to do something without a proper system in place?"

The answer to that seems to be "maybe" and "it's quite hard" although perhaps it could happen one day. Key to success is not in monitoring individual posts, as that's all just random radio chatter. It's about watching for an increase in the number of "ISIS-supporting ad hoc web groups" that may predict upcoming activity. [New York Times via RT]

Image credit: Servers from Shutterstock


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