Tracking Terror Groups On The Web

September 12th, 2007 at 12:00 am

Terrorism is a global concern, and after the events that transpired on 9-11, the government has been in the offensive and at times even overly aggressive in deterring any terrorist threats. And they found out that the internet is one of the places where terrorists and extremists can conduct activities, more specifically recruiting members and even planning and executing terror attacks.

At the University of Arizona , its Artificial Intelligence Lab has began an undertaking called the Dark Web Project which aims to find the “dark corners” in the web where extremists operate. The project, using techniques like Web spidering, link analysis, content analysis, authorship analysis, sentiment analysis and multimedia analysis, would catalog and analyze extremist activities online.

The premise behind the project is the fact that the internet is a perfect tool to coordinate terror activities since emails, web sites, and internet forums offer speed, ubiquity, and potential anonymity in providing and dissemination of information and communication. This makes if easy for terror groups to operate.

According to a recent report, more than 5,000 Web sites have been created and are being maintained by known international terrorist groups. These groups include Al-Qaeda, Iraqi insurgencies, and other terrorist cells in Europe. The websites are in multiple languages and are hidden within harmless-looking Web sites.

Because of the sheer volume of data and information on the internet, monitoring them via the traditional way is beyond the capabilities of ordinary intelligence agencies and research communities. The Dark Web Project has taken over the job of what most people would find overwhelming.

The project is being funded by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies. Dr. Hsinchun Chen, head of the Artificial Intelligence Lab, runs the project.