How technology could help predict terrorist attacks
The internet has become a weapon for terrorists, who use social media and other technologies to organise, recruit and spread propaganda. So is it possible to turn technology around and use it to not only catch terrorists but predict and potentially stop terror attacks before they happen?
One thing we can do is use technology to search for patterns in the activity and language of terrorists and their supporters online. If we can spot trends that typically occur in the run up to an attack, it may be possible to automatically identify when future acts of violence are being planned. In a new study, researchers from Harvard University attempted to do just this. They used computer simulations to show how unofficial groups of online Islamic State (IS) supporters spread and grow through social networking sites and how this relates to the timing of violent attacks.
This follows research into how messages on Twitter can be classified to predict whether someone will support or oppose IS. Other researchers have used data-mining techniques on social media data to try to work out when supporters “begin to adopt pro-IS behaviour”.