Home Terrorism & Threats VLOG: Analyzing Terrorist Mass Communication And Social Media

VLOG: Analyzing Terrorist Mass Communication And Social Media


In this vlog, Doctoral Faculty Member Dr. Keith Ludwick discusses his preliminary research at the university on how terrorists are using periodicals, social channels, and other hidden means of communicating with terrorist cells around the world. How does text analysis play a part in analyzing terrorist communication? Dr. Ludwick explains this further, as well as how the end goals of this research will not only help intelligence officers, but how it will help the practitioner in educating the next wave of intelligence and homeland security professionals in the near future.

Dr. Ludwick is a former FBI Special Agent and is a member of AMU’s doctoral faculty within the university’s Security and Global Studies school.

Transcript of Dr. Keith Ludwick’s vlog for In Homeland Security:

Terrorism mass communication is a broad field that has primarily been focused on social media. In my previous responsibility as a special agent with the FBI, I used to run a group that did social media and open source investigations. What I kind of realized after I retired and started getting more into academia and the research, I realized that there were other forms of mass communication that were being neglected in the research.

So, we started examining different things that began to look at things beyond social media. Ways that terrorist groups can communicate to groups either targeted or untargeted. The terrorist group Al Qaeda uses Inspire magazine – that is a form of communication they use that to push their agenda and ideology. So we’re trying to take that information and analyze it to see what are the common themes within their communication within that medium.

There are 16 different issues of Inspire magazine. Are there significant changes in the text? Is there something we can draw out of? Why did it change? We don’t know yet. Nobody’s ever really looked at that.

I’m working with a student from the doctoral program who is also interested in terrorist communication and analyzing terrorist groups. And I brought her on as a research assistant to help me organize the data and develop a research agenda. We’re attempting to show the applicability of multidisciplinary approaches, technical tools, and to see where it leads us. There is a lot of other data sets that this can be applied to if it’s effective.

The Inspire magazine data set is kind of known, it’s accepted, al-Qaida is an accepted terrorist group. There’s not a lot of wishy-washy stuff there. If we can show the effectiveness of this research technique, there are other avenues that could benefit from using this type of analysis. For instance, using lone wolf terrorism manifestos or even beyond terrorism you could start looking at banknotes from bank robberies, and things like that, to see if there’s themes that could be used.

If I had a grand vision, I would love to see five years from now an institute of multidisciplinary approaches to terrorism where we would pull from other disciplines to try and solve some of these problems to understand, mitigate, and stop terrorist attacks.



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