"The Internet is used as a prime recruiting tool for insurgents. Extremists use chat rooms, dedicated servers and websites, and social networking tools as propaganda machines, as a means of recruitment and organization, for training grounds, and for significant fund-raising through cybercrime. [...] The decentralized nature of the Internet as a medium and the associated difficulty in responding to emerging threats can match the franchised nature of terrorist organizations and operations"
"Terrorist Use of the Internet: Information Operations in Cyberspace", 2011
Congressional Research Service
In the last few years we have seen the emergence of the Social Network Site (SNS) phenomenon: Internet information sources constituted by linked data and connected users producing an extraordinary amount of heterogeneous content.
Given the unprecedented availability of linked data concerning the life of hundreds of million people, the general objective of IMPACT (Information Monitoring, Propagation Analysis and Community Detection in Social Network Sites) is to study methodologies and develop techniques and tools to monitor Social Network Sites and to identify relevant structural and communication patterns.
IMPACT is a national research project approved by Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (“FIRB research projects” D.D. n. 490/Ric, August 3, 2010).
SmartData group’s task
There are three main objectives pursued by the SmartData group. The first one is the development of monitoring tools and models, to filter relevant messages among millions of textual interactions and to identify distributed conversations made of these messages. The second objective is the study of how information propagates in SNSs, following complementary approaches: the evaluation of mathematical propagation models on real data, the identification of propagation patterns and the development of sociological models to explain these patterns. The last goal of the group is the definition of new metrics to provide meaningful descriptions of large SNSs and their application to identify communities and other relevant structures hidden inside the networks.
These objectives can easily been instantiated into many application fields. One of the most relevant is the use of the monitoring tools and models developed by the project to monitor sensible information in SNSs for homeland and international security purposes. Aside of these goals online monitoring and community detection techniques can easily be used for a large variety of goals: from online political analysis to brand reputation monitoring and online marketing.