• European govts. urge U.S. tech companies to remove terrorist-related postings from sites

    The terror attacks in Paris have led French and German authorities to call on U.S. tech firms to help identify terrorist communications and remove hate speech from social media sites. The United Kingdom has also, for several months now, pressed Internet firms to be proactive in removing extremist content such as videos of sermons by radical Islamic preachers or recruitment material, from their sites. These recent requests for more cooperation between U.S. tech firms and European governments contrast with calls from many of the same governments who, following the Edward Snowden leaks, criticized U.S. tech firms for being too close to law enforcement agencies.

  • Disease can be monitored, predicted by analyzing views of Wikipedia articles

    Scientists can now monitor and forecast diseases around the globe more effectively by analyzing views of Wikipedia articles. Researchers were able successfully to monitor influenza in the United States, Poland, Japan and Thailand, dengue fever in Brazil and Thailand, and tuberculosis in China and Thailand. They were also able to forecast all but one of these, tuberculosis in China, at least twenty-eight days in advance.

  • Analyzing how emotions ripple following terrorist events

    The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing motivated mass expressions of fear, solidarity, and sympathy toward Bostonians on social media networks around the world. In a recently released study, researchers analyzed emotional reactions on Twitter in the hours and weeks following the attack. The study is the first large-scale analysis of fear and social-support reactions from geographically distant communities following a terrorist attack. The full results of the study may provide insight to governmental agencies exploring how best to handle public fear following a disruptive event.

  • Is social media responsible for your safety during a disaster?

    Given the popularity of Facebook and Twitter, it is not surprising so many people use social media in crises such as floods, fires, and earthquakes. While social media can be a handy resource in crises, people must be careful not to take their access for granted during emergencies. Floods, fires, and earthquakes often disrupt the power and communications infrastructures that smartphones rely upon, as our access is constrained by the limitations of copper, fiber, hybrid, and cellular Internet technologies, and their vulnerability to the elements. Also, some questions about the features of tools such as Facebook’s Safety Check are yet to be answered persuasively. Still, such concerns notwithstanding, it is encouraging to see an organization such as Facebook taking responsibility for its users and entering the crisis communication space. A tool that helps family and friends during a crisis, and facilitates easy communication is a welcome development.

  • Head of U.K. surveillance agency: U.S. tech companies have become terrorists' “networks of choice”

    The new director of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the U.K. intelligence organization responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to the British government and armed forces, said that privacy has never been “an absolute right.” Robert Hannigan used his first public intervention since becoming head of Britain’s surveillance agency to charge U.S. technology companies of becoming “the command and control networks of choice” for terrorists.

  • Social media firms pledging to keep users anonymous still collect users’ information

    Social media firm Whisperprides itself on offering anonymity in a market where the biggest players are often considered too transparent. Its co-founder, Michael Heyward, a tech entrepreneur, describes the company as “the first completely anonymous social network,” an alternative to Facebookand Twitter. It now emerges that Whisper’s back-end systems that retain digital libraries of texts and photographs sent by users, and in some cases the location information of users.

  • ISIS and al-Qaeda use social media, Web platforms differently to achieve different ends

    The Internet has contributed to the popularity of both al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) among would-be jihadists, but the two terror groups use social media and Web platforms differently. Al-Qaeda has been spreading its message via the Internet for nearly two decades, while ISIS is a relative newcomer. Both groups use social media to recruit fighters, but ISIS has successfully developed content that Internet users are likely to share and repost. Such content in the form of violent videos and graphic imagery target young, disillusioned Westerners who are prime for radicalization.

  • Computing for Ebola Challenge

    Researchers at the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory (NDSSL) have been using a combination of modeling techniques to predict the spread of the Ebola outbreak. As part of those efforts, the team created an adaptable set of global synthetic populations, allowing for rapid response as the situation continues to unfold. The synthetic populations and other informatics resources are now openly available to aid other researchers and citizen scientists. The NDSSL is hosting a Computing for Ebola Challenge from 3 October to 10 October 2014. The goal of the hackathon is to develop an application to combat the Ebola epidemic. All are welcome to join.

  • Political traffic by Arabs on social media overwhelmingly hostile to, suspicious of U.S.

    Researchers found that a great deal of the political and social traffic by Arabs on social media is deeply hostile to and suspicious of the United States. U.S. officials are concerned that Internet users in the Arab world understand history and current events in ways fundamentally different from the American version. “Suspicion and opposition to U.S. foreign policy appear to be so deep and so widely shared, even by those on opposite sides of other contentious issues, that it’s hard to imagine how the U.S. could begin to rebuild trust,” said one expert.

  • State Department’s social media campaign against ISIS questioned

    The State Departmentis advancing its anti-terrorism efforts on social media by reaching out to vulnerable English-speakers who could be recruited to join the Islamic State (IS). The campaign emphasizes IS’s brutality, and, mockingly, advises would-be recruits to learn “useful new skills” such as “blowing up mosques” and “crucifying and executing Muslims.” Experts say that there is a psychological error in trying to scare people off with threats that something might be exciting and thrilling. “If you challenge a young adult, particularly a male, with the fact that something might be especially difficult or challenging, you’re just exciting them,” says an expert in the psychology of terrorists.

  • Former Jihadists effective in dissuading would-be IS recruits from joining the group: Experts

    Last week British prime minister David Cameron announced new powers, allowing police to seize the passports of terrorist suspects to stop them from returning to the United Kingdom. London mayor Boris Johnson also called for British Jihadists to have their citizenship revoked. Richard Barrett, former counter-terrorism chief at MI5 and MI6, disagrees. He is advocating a passage of return for repentant fighters, saying “Many of the people who have been most successful in undermining the terrorist narrative are themselves ex-extremists.”

  • Social networks aim to curb terror posts

    Social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram have all become a staple of everyday Western lifestyles – and these avenues have also become more interesting for terrorists to exploit to advance their goals. These companies admit, however, that curbing free speech and screening violent and hateful content does involve walking a fine line.

  • ISIS cleverly exploits social media for recruiting, communicating, and instilling fear

    Islamist militants have adopted social media as their primary medium for communicating with the public. Terrorism experts and social media analysts agree that in recent weeks IS has demonstrated a mastery of social media that far exceeds that of al-Qaeda. That use of social media is partly due to the participation of young Western-educated recruits who join IS.

  • Social media grappling with problems posed by terrorists-supporting contents

    Terrorist organizations have adopted social media as a tool for spreading propaganda and recruiting new members. Social media allow terrorist groups to interact with an audience and spread their message to a broader base. Legal scholars warn that as social media networks become the modern space for public discourse, they must be careful about publishing certain content because they could come under legal scrutiny for materially supporting terrorist organizations.

  • ISIS’s appeal to Islamist recruits grows as al Qaeda seen as stale, tired, and ineffectual

    Advances by militant groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the midst of turmoil in the Arab world, while al-Qaeda’s aging leaders remain relatively silent, have led would-be terrorists and Islamic scholars to question al-Qaeda’s influence on global Jihad and its would-be fighters. Within the social circles of potential militant recruits, al-Qaeda is increasingly seen as stale, tired, and ineffectual.