Week 8: Bridges Made of Tweets. No, wait…

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It’s a pretty confronting concept, the internet lynch mob. Especially when it’s a missile strike, not a lynching, and the mob is the chins. It becomes way, way more terrifying.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then check out this article. In summary, though, basically a dedicated network of 4chan users cross referenced screen shots, grabs and footage from Syrian militant propaganda with publicly available geographic and infrastructure data to (at least apparently) locate training camps and forward posts of active militants. This information, either by way of twitter or direct contact, was then passed onto Russian MoD and military intelligence. If everything is to be believed, missile strikes were then carried out based on that data. Spooky, no?

This demonstrates the darker side of what is a generally positive topic for the week. Through the aggregation and interpretation of thousands of tiny packets of information, a user can get an larger, more complete understanding of a situation. Just like one pixel is relatively useless, when thousands of them come together you start to get a clearer picture. In the examples we’ve studied before, this has led to us getting a better understanding of events unfolding on the ground where there was restricted or unreliable traditional media access; allowing individuals on the ground to contribute their data packet, tweet or metaphorical pixel to the larger picture.

This is the same process that allowed the notorious hacker known as 4chin to use thousands of users and independent data packets to create what was, essentially, a military intelligence dossier.

Scary stuff.

References

Steinblatt, J 2016, ‘How One 4Chan Board Is Trying To Fight ISIS In Syria’, Vocativ, June 6, viewed 1/10/16