Digital Tech vs Terrorism and Online Propaganda

September 11, 2001, marked a before and after. Security and the world as we know it was changed forever. Since that day there have been over 20,000 deadly terror attacks, more than 47,000 bombings, 14,000 assassinations, and 5,3000 kidnappings.

In 2018, 60% of internet-related counter-terrorism prosecutions had to do with material shared that was Islamist in nature. 40% was concerned with the Far Right – material that included hatred against black people, Jewish people, and Muslim people.

Not surprisingly, police enforcement around the globe is always looking for innovative ways to use technology and big data to protect people.

Removing Online Propaganda

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The internet has become a weapon for terrorists, who use social media and other technologies to organize, 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?

Last year, The UK Home Office and ASI Data Science developed a new technology to automatically detect terrorist content on any online platform.

Tests have shown that this new tool can automatically detect 94% of Daesh (Acronym for the Arabic phrase al-Dawla al-Islamiya al-Iraq al-Sham, which means Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) propaganda with 99.995% accuracy. 

The technology uses advanced machine learning to analyze the audio and visuals of a video with extreme accuracy. For example, if the software analyzes one million videos, only 50 would require additional human review. 

The tool can be used by any platform, integrated into the upload process, so that the majority of video propaganda can even be stopped before it ever reaches the internet. They will be sharing the methodology behind the new model with internet companies, in order to help fight the abuse of their platforms by terrorists and their supporters. 


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Many major tech companies have also developed technology specific to their own platforms and have publicly reported on the difference this is making in their fight against terrorist content. Smaller platforms, however, are increasingly targeted by Daesh propaganda. 

Facebook uses Artificial Intelligence to spot images, videos and text related to terrorism, but it´s still a work in progress.

In the latest New Zealand attacks, #: “AI has made massive progress over the years and in many areas, which has enabled us to proactively detect the vast majority of the content we remove. But it’s not perfect. AI systems are based on training data.”

A Different Video Surveillance Approach

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Terrorists’ online communications are only part of the picture. There are ways to fight terrorists’ offline communicative behaviors by measuring levels of stress  and detecting patterns associated with deceit. 

For example, the use of sensors and infrared scanners to monitor body changes or track people’s faces, bodies or eye movements. 

After the Paris attacks, French police announced the implementation of surveillance cameras that predict terror attacks by monitoring suspicious behavior and luggage. The software tracks changes in body temperature, raised voices and body movements that can indicate heightened levels of anxiety and could be a sign of an impending terror attack.

In 2013 a Massachusetts State Police helicopter used thermal imaging to locate the Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, after a homeowner reported that the bloodied fugitive was hiding in a boat in his yard.

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