• Terrorist networksOnline tool maps terrorist networks, behavior over time

    To allow a better understanding of how terrorist organizations network and function over time, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) has launched the Big Allied and Dangerous (BAAD) online platform. The tool features updated, vetted, and sourced narratives and relationship information and social network data on fifty of the most notorious terrorist organizations in the world since 1998, with additional network information on more than 100 organizations. The research team plans to expand the database and online platform to include more than 600 terrorist organizations.

  • Islam & extremismTony Blair: Many Muslims support Islamic extremists' ideology

    Tony Blair has warned that the ideology which drives Islamic extremists has significant support from Muslims around the world. Blair said that unless religious prejudice in Muslim communities is rooted out, the threat from the extremists will not be defeated. Blair, speaking at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City, said that while the number of people engaging in violence by joining groups like Islamic State is relatively small, many of their views are widely shared.

  • Islam & extremismISIS, al-Qaeda, al-Nusra share near identical ideologies: Report

    A just-published report analyzes a cross-section of 114 propaganda sources over two years from the three main Salafi-jihadi groups: ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The three groups share near identical ideologies, challenging the concept that “ISIS is more extreme than al-Qaeda.” Built upon distorted Islamic religious principles, the propaganda produces single-minded focus on violent jihad. The report finds explicit references to these principles throughout the propaganda:

  • Insider threatInsider threats, organizational rigidity pose challenges for U.S. national security: Study

    U.S. national security faces rising challenges from insider threats and organizational rigidity, a Stanford professor says. A new study says that in the past five years, seemingly trustworthy U.S. military and intelligence insiders have been responsible for a number of national security incidents, including the WikiLeaks publications and the 2009 attack at Fort Hood in Texas that killed 13 and injured more than 30. The study’s author acknowledges the difficulties of learning lessons from tragedies like 9/11, the NASA space shuttle accidents, and the 2009 Fort Hood shooting. She notes that policymakers tend to attribute failure to people and policies. While seemingly hidden at times, the organizational roots of disaster are much more important than many think, she added.

  • School shootingNew personality profiling technique helps identify potential school shooters

    Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) have developed a personality profiling technique which automates the identification of potential school shooters by analyzing personality traits that appear in their writings. The text-based computational personality-profiling tool uses “vector semantics.” This involves constructing a number of vectors representing personality dimensions and disorders, which are analyzed automatically by computer to measure the similarity with texts written by the human subject.

  • War & peaceHow Western Europe came to dominate the globe

    Although Europe represents only about 8 percent of the planet’s landmass, from 1492 to 1914, Europeans conquered or colonized more than 80 percent of the entire world. There are many possible explanations for why history played out this way, but few can explain why the West was so powerful for so long. Caltech’s Philip Hoffman, a professor of business economics and history, has a new explanation: the advancement of gunpowder technology. The Chinese invented gunpowder, but Hoffman argues that certain political and economic circumstances allowed the Europeans to advance gunpowder technology at an unprecedented rate — allowing a relatively small number of people quickly to take over much of the rest of the globe. What lessons does his explanation of the West’s rise to dominance offer for today’s policy makers? “In a world where there are hostile powers, we really don’t want to get rid of spending on improving military technology,” Hoffman says. “I would much rather see expenditures devoted to infrastructure, or scientific research, or free preschool for everybody – things that would carry big economic benefits,” and “I wish we did live in that world, but unfortunately it’s not realistic.”

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  • War & peaceNo “democratic peace”: Democracies are as likely to fight each other as other types of government

    Democratic peace is the widely held theory that democracies are less likely to go to war against each other than countries with other types of government. Using a new technique to analyze fifty-two years of international conflict, researchers suggest that there may be no such thing as a “democratic peace.” In the new study, researchers found that economic trade relationships and participation in international governmental organizations play a strong role in keeping the peace among countries. But democracy? Not so much. In addition, a model developed with this new technique was found to predict international conflict five and even ten years in the future better than any existing model.

  • Extremism & social mediaCountering extremist groups’ social media influence, persuasion

    Social media has become a vital channel for terrorist groups to share news and seduce new members. The recent, notable successes of ISIS in the United States and Europe have demonstrated that terror groups can successfully use this approach to further their agenda of violence. While it gets less attention, social media is equally important for groups that are sharing and communicating information to counter extremist discourse. The problem is, how can those looking to counter the violent ideology of groups like ISIS analyze all the conversations to determine what is a significant danger? How can groups countering violent extremism leverage social media to limit the diffusion of extremist ideology? New research aimed at helping to solve this puzzle.

  • Mass shootingMass killings, school shootings are contagious

    On average, mass killings involving firearms occur approximately every two weeks in the United States, and school shootings occur on average monthly. Mass killings — events with four or more deaths — and school shootings create a period of contagion that lasts an average of thirteen days. Roughly 20 to 30 percent of such tragedies appear to arise from contagion. “The hallmark of contagion is observing patterns of many events that are bunched in time, rather than occurring randomly in time,” says a researcher.

  • TerrorismFocusing on how, rather than why, individuals make the transition to terrorism

    Intelligence and counterterrorism officials have spent tremendous effort to understand why people become Islamist terrorists and commit acts of violence. Up till the 1980s, a significant number of terrorism scholars argued that terrorists are “driven” or “pushed” to commit violence because of an internal imbalance or a psychological abnormality rooted inside the individual. In recent years, scholars have suggested that the roots of terrorism are not in the individual, but in the social environment in which terrorists live and act. The debate goes, leading scholars to argue that the concerns of law enforcement officials should be less about why terrorists exist or commit violence, and more about the how, when, and where does the transition to terrorism take place.

  • RadicalizationBest possible antidote to radicalization: Education

    Education is the best possible antidote to radicalization, Professor Louise Richardson told the British Council’s Going Global conference in London last week. Richardson, who was recently nominated as the next vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, said: “Any terrorist I have ever met through my academic work had a highly over simplified view of the world, which they saw in black and white terms. Education robs you of that simplification and certitude. Education is the best possible to antidote to radicalization.”

  • Decision makingSocial circles explain why members of Congress vote the way they do

    The standard model of voting behavior basically assumes there is only one factor that matters: where a legislator lives on the liberal-conservative axis. That position, derived from their roll call votes, serves as an ideological marker that presumably summarizes the various forces that can influence the legislators’ votes, including personal preferences, party preferences, and constituent opinion. Researchers developed a new model called “social identity voting” based on social identity theory, which says our identity is partially created and reinforced by the various circles within which we move and the various ideologies with which we identify. In other words, it is not just friends and friends of friends, but also potentially something more subtle — you can identify with a movement without necessarily being part of an explicit “social circle.” The researchers conclude that U.S. Congress members’ social circles are more important in how they vote than their liberal or conservative beliefs or constituents’ opinions.

  • Decision making“Echo chambers” fuel climate change debate: Study

    A new study demonstrates that the highly contentious debate on climate change is fueled in part by how information flows throughout policy networks. The researchers found that “echo chambers” — social network structures in which individuals with the same viewpoint share information with each other — play a significant role in climate policy communication. The researchers point out that the debate on climate change is not indicative of inconclusive science. Rather, the debate is illustrative of how echo chambers influence information flows in policy networks. “Our research underscores how important it is for people on both sides of the climate debate to be careful about where they get their information. If their sources are limited to those that repeat and amplify a single perspective, they can’t be certain about the reliability or objectivity of their information,” says one of the authors.

  • TerrorismTerrorists’ personality traits indistinguishable from traits of the general population: Experts

    Social scientists and psychologists have not found a personality trait that visibly marks a potential for violent extremism, making it difficult to identify members of a group who may take up arms in support of a common cause. “As of now, there is no specific terrorist profile,” said one expert, who studies violent radicalization. “They come in all shapes and sizes.”Another experts writes that“There are no psychological characteristics or psychopathology that separate terrorists from the general population.”

  • EuropeMarine Le Pen: The rhetoric behind extremist politician's mainstream success

    Jean-Marie Le Pen founded the French National Front in 1972 to unite under the same political banner several fringe groups – royalists, conservative Catholics, those nostalgic for the Vichy régime and the colonial Empire — and offer a political home to voters who opposed immigration to France from France’s former colonies in Africa and who wanted to take France out of the European Union. Le Pen, however, was an obstacle to the growth of FN. He is a crude anti-Semite and Holocaust denier, and a vulgar racist. He refuses to support the French national soccer team because some of its players are black or Muslim, and hence not “real” French. He criticized the French government’s participation in the efforts to contain Ebola in West Africa because, he argued, if the Ebola virus were allowed to spread freely, it would have “solved” the global “population explosion” (that is, having too many black-skinned people) and, by extension, France’s – and Europe’s — “immigration problem.” His daughter, Marine Le Pen, became the leader of FN in 2011 and set out to rebrand the FN in order to make it acceptable to more centrist voters. Recent election results show that she has been successful. A textual analysis of French political speeches reveals how Marine Le Pen has made extremism palatable in a land of republican values.