Online Surveillance: …ISIS and beyond [Social Media “chaff”]

If you ever doubted “anti-terror group surveillance tools” should always be called titled “group surveillance tools,” New online ecology of adversarial aggregates: ISIS and beyond. Science, 2016; 352 (6292): 1459 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf0675 by N. F. Johnson, et al., puts those to rest.

Unintentionally no doubt, but the “…ISIS and beyond” part of the title signals this technique is not limited to ISIS.

Consider the abstract:

Support for an extremist entity such as Islamic State (ISIS) somehow manages to survive globally online despite considerable external pressure and may ultimately inspire acts by individuals having no history of extremism, membership in a terrorist faction, or direct links to leadership. Examining longitudinal records of online activity, we uncovered an ecology evolving on a daily time scale that drives online support, and we provide a mathematical theory that describes it. The ecology features self-organized aggregates (ad hoc groups formed via linkage to a Facebook page or analog) that proliferate preceding the onset of recent real-world campaigns and adopt novel adaptive mechanisms to enhance their survival. One of the predictions is that development of large, potentially potent pro-ISIS aggregates can be thwarted by targeting smaller ones.

Here’s the abstract re-written for the anti-war movement of the 1960’s:

Support for an extremists such as the anti-Vietnam War movement somehow manages to survive nationally online despite considerable external pressure and may ultimately inspire acts by individuals having no history of extremism, membership in a anti-war faction, or direct links to leadership. Examining longitudinal records of online activity, we uncovered an ecology evolving on a daily time scale that drives online support, and we provide a mathematical theory that describes it. The ecology features self-organized aggregates (ad hoc groups formed via linkage to a Facebook page or analog) that proliferate preceding the onset of recent real-world campaigns and adopt novel adaptive mechanisms to enhance their survival. One of the predictions is that development of large, potentially potent pro-anti-War aggregates can be thwarted by targeting smaller ones.

Here’s the abstract re-written for the civil rights movement of the 1960’s:

Support for an extremists such as SNCC somehow manages to survive nationally online despite considerable external pressure and may ultimately inspire acts by individuals having no history of extremism, membership in a SNCC faction, or direct links to leadership. Examining longitudinal records of online activity, we uncovered an ecology evolving on a daily time scale that drives online support, and we provide a mathematical theory that describes it. The ecology features self-organized aggregates (ad hoc groups formed via linkage to a Facebook page or analog) that proliferate preceding the onset of recent real-world campaigns and adopt novel adaptive mechanisms to enhance their survival. One of the predictions is that development of large, potentially potent SNCC aggregates can be thwarted by targeting smaller ones.

Here’s the abstract re-written for the gay rights movement:

Support for an extremists such as gay rights somehow manages to survive nationally online despite considerable external pressure and may ultimately inspire acts by individuals having no history of extremism, membership in a gay rights faction, or direct links to leadership. Examining longitudinal records of online activity, we uncovered an ecology evolving on a daily time scale that drives online support, and we provide a mathematical theory that describes it. The ecology features self-organized aggregates (ad hoc groups formed via linkage to a Facebook page or analog) that proliferate preceding the onset of recent real-world campaigns and adopt novel adaptive mechanisms to enhance their survival. One of the predictions is that development of large, potentially potent gay rights aggregates can be thwarted by targeting smaller ones.

The government has admitted to the use of surveillance against all three, civil rights, anti-Vietnam war, and gay rights, which in the words of Justice Holmes, “…was an outrage which the Government now regrets….”

I mention those cases so the current fervor against “terrorists” doesn’t blind us to the need for counters to every technique for disrupting “terrorists.”

“Terrorists” being a label applied to people with who some group or government disagrees. Frequently almost entirely fictional, as in the case of the United States. The FBI recruits the mentally ill in order to provide some credence to its hunt for terrorists in the US.

One obvious counter to the aggregate analysis proposed by the authors would be a series of AI-driven aggregates that are auto-populated and supplied with content derived from human users.

Defeating suppression with a large number of “fake” aggregates. Think of it as social media “chaff.”

If you think about it, separating wheat from chaff is a subject identity issue. 😉

Production of social media “chaff” and influencing papers such as this one, is a open research subject.

If you have a cause, I have some time.

One Response to “Online Surveillance: …ISIS and beyond [Social Media “chaff”]”

  1. […] 352 (6292): 1459 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf0675 by N. F. Johnson, et al., puts those to rest” [Another Word For It]. NC readers will have noticed that was what the Democrats’ heroic gun control filibuster was […]