Exploiting Social Media for Army Operations: Syrian Civil War Use Case

Report No. ARL-RP-0489
Authors: Sue E. Kase, Elizabeth K. Bowman, Tanvir Al Amin, and Tarek Abdelzaher
Date/Pages: July 2014; 18 pages
Abstract: Millions of people exchange user-generated information through online social media (SM) services. The prevalence of SM use globally and its growing significance to the evolution of events has attracted the attention of many agencies, from humanitarian non-government organizations (NGOs) and disaster response agencies to homeland security and counter-terrorism. The information exchanged in SM sites and the networks of people who interact with these online communities can provide insights into ongoing events. For example, SM could provide ongoing assessment of disaster relief and humanitarian operations from a local perspective, or offer an understanding of risk levels to which the operators in question are exposed. Despite its potential value, there are significant technological barriers to leveraging SM. SM collection and analysis are difficult in the dynamic SM environment and deception is a real concern. This paper introduces a credibility analysis approach and prototype fact-finding technology called the "Apollo Fact-finder" that mitigates the problem of inaccurate or falsified SM data. Apollo groups data into sets (or claims), corroborating specific observations, then iteratively assesses both claim and source credibility resulting in a ranking of claims by likelihood of occurrence. These credibility analysis approaches are discussed in the context of a hypothetical humanitarian mission executed in an area of active conflict and applied to public domain tweets collected in the aftermath of a Syrian crisis.
Distribution: Approved for public release
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Last Update / Reviewed: July 1, 2014