The US Military Uses Syria to Study Social Media

After reading about social media and the Syrian Conflict in class and on the blog, I was curious as to what was being done with all of this information. I found an article detailing how students at the Naval Postgraduate School are working two projects that deal with categorizing and corralling information from social media.

The first is a software known as the Dynamic Twitter Network Analysis (DTNA) that has the ability to pull data from twitter by topic or hashtag and group it together. This is similar to how marketing has used twitter to follow trends, but could be harnessed to follow the potential uprisings and threats to security (because we have noted that twitter activity proceeds mass protests in this article)

The other program is specific to Syria, because the vulnerability of a number of sites containing weapons of mass destruction. The program similarly take information from not only twitter, but google, youtube, facebook etc. and looks for any indication that these sites could be in jeopardy. It is important to monitor because President Obama “plans to keep from entering the Syrian civil war unless chemical weapon stockpiles are exposed to danger” (Davis,1).

Syria has proved an excellent study for these tools because so much of their information is on social media. “It was unusual because unlike conventional war, these organizations don’t have funding or resources,” Lucente said. “There are no secure communications radios” making it very easy to access their information. (Davis,2) The rebels have also embraced social media to communicate with supporters, they have 647,000 likes on their facebook page and 78,000 people following their twitter which posts updates on progress and locations. They even update a Google maps detailing day to day strikes, movement, and videos.
These are new tools being used by the military, which are more efficient, but some question the legality of privacy rights and potential storage of information. This project represents some of the first Sentiment Analysis studies for the military and opens up a whole new age for military action. This also reminded me of the Disaster Relief technology that our guest speaker Sara Estes Cohen discussed, and how that is permeating throughout all of the departments in the government, albeit much more slowly in some.

Here is a video that further explores these projects at the Naval School. This article was found on Network World and written by Kerry Davis on November 9th 2012


About katy11

Studying abroad in Ghana for the semester, one wonders how this will pan out? View all posts by katy11

One response to “The US Military Uses Syria to Study Social Media

  • lfairba

    This is a very interesting article on how social media can be used in a serious way to help bring social activism and awareness. The fact that social media became such a serious topic during conflicts shows how prolific ICTs have become

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