Friday, 7 December 2012

SNA – The Secret Weapon against Terrorism

In his forthcoming book Network ScienceAlbert-László Barabási has already reported about the role of social network analysis in the capturing on Saddam Hussein. Our readers know, that the blog itself is no stranger to the subject. A new American paper sums up how and why this approach can be useful in fighting political violence.

The academic community studying terrorism has changed dramatically in the past decade, and the descriptive and explanatory potentials have grown strongly. On of the reasons for its popularity is the increasing acknowledgment within the academic community of the important association between the group’s dynamic and (social)structure, and its members’ motivations and behaviors.

The Network of the Terrorist Group responsible for the Attack against WTC.

Understanding the motives and the processes that led the group to engage in political violence requires a look beyond the apparent causal relations between the causes of the violence and the violent activities. Since September 11th, growing numbers of media outlets have increased their coverage of terrorist incidents and groups. This, combined with the striking increase in the efforts and resources invested in data collection about these groups by academic and governmental agencies in recent years.

An IRA statement.
Violence or political action is a result of collective action, i.e., an output of a process, which is an action of a group of actors who interact with each other on some level, so SNA seems like an obvious analyzing tool. The sizes of these gropus varies widely (from 2 man groups to milites like the IRA), so an instrumental approach in bigger newtorks focus on command and information channels and the roles of leaders.
After drawing the networks of terrorist organizations, measuring the influence and power of individual actors becomes relatively easy, with the help of centrality and betweenness measures. Unveiling the hierarchy could also help authorities in dismantling them, making targeting a lot less complicated.
You can read the whole article at the academia homepage.

Ckeck out the original article for more.