State of the Art 2015: a literature review of social media intelligence for counter-terrorism

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This is a foundational report and a seminal work in the study of social media intelligence and open source research. The paper reviews 245 papers in a semi-systematic literature review of how information and insight can be drawn from open social media sources. It focuses on the specific research techniques that have emerged, the capabilities they provide, the possible insights they offer, and the ethical and legal questions they raise. This 2015 report is an updated version to the original 2013 report by the same name “State of the Art”, which is also available in this portal. The overall aim of the review is to describe the emerging contours of social media research to codify the capabilities that have emerged and opportunities they have created, and the risks and hurdles that they face – methodological, legal and ethical – in order to contribute towards countering terrorism in a way that is publicly supported and effective.

This report will be of particular use to PVE researchers and practitioners interested in how far the research has come between 2013 and 2015. Since 2013, social media has experienced some significant changes. These include: concerns about Internet surveillance and privacy following the Edward Snowden revelations of NSA; partly as a result, the way that people use social media and how companies have reacted to the public scrutiny; the way the Islamic State (ISIS) has made social media central to their modus operandi; and, the vast improvements in the methods and software that can be utilized. 

Jamie Bartlett and Louis Reynolds

September 2015