How social media can be used to discover credible sources of intelligence

In this blog entry we will explore how to quickly identify credible sources of information using social media and location based intelligence.

In the world of Open Source Intelligence there can be a lot of “noise”. This is particularly true during an event, or directly after an event. Identifying a credible source of information to help you gain situational awareness can be difficult during these periods.

Having a source on the ground getting a first-hand view of what has or is happening can give you great insight into the situation.

In this example, we will use location based intelligence to identify a source of information to help us understand what is going on “on the ground” in Iraq in the battle against Islamic State.

In the first instance we have set the time-scale in Providence for the past 7 days and selected our ISIS entity which we have set-up to monitor Islamic State based chatter.

In Figure 1 below we can now see a filtered view of this chatter, including posts made with geolocation services turned on.

Figure 1

In Figure 2 we zoom in to get a better view of where the posts in Syria and Iraq have been made from and select them by creating a geo-fence on the interactive map.

Figure 2

Zooming in further as shown in Figure 3 below, we can see there are individuals posting from three locations inside Iraq with location services enabled. They are posting from Kirkuk, Sharqat and Baretle, which is located on the outskirts of Mosul.

Figure 3

Looking at the usernames of these posts, we can see there are in fact three separate people posting with location services enabled.

Figure 4

WorldStack has redacted the names of the individual identified and the exact locations as a security precaution given where they are reporting from and the dangers associated with it.

All three people identified are in fact reporters covering the fight against Islamic State from the ground in Iraq. After a quick review of their profiles and the content they are posting one in particular stands out from the rest as providing the most up-to-date and consistent reporting.
This individual seems to get pictures of events as they unfold, posts to Twitter then links a lot of his pictures to his Instagram account, as can be seen below in Figures 5 and 6.

Figure 5

Figure 6

Using social media we have identified a source who is posting first-hand information from the ground in Iraq. The information he presents on his Twitter and Instagram accounts appear to be unbiased.

This same methodology can be useful across a wide variety of use cases, such as natural disasters, biosecurity, terrorism incidents and many more where having credible first-hand accounts is important for gaining insight when you may not have trusted individuals on the ground.