The Dark Web project team catalogues and studies places online where terrorists operate.
Terrorists and extremists have set up shop on the Internet, using it to recruit new members, spread propaganda and plan attacks across the world. The size and scope of these dark corners of the Web are vast and disturbing. But in a non-descript building in Tucson, a team of computational scientists are using the cutting-edge technology and novel new approaches to track their moves online, providing an invaluable tool in the global war on terror.
Funded by the National Science Foundation and other federal agencies, Hsinchun Chen and his Artificial Intelligence Lab at the University of Arizona have created the Dark Web project, which aims to systematically collect and analyze all terrorist-generated content on the Web.
This is no small undertaking. The speed, ubiquity, and potential anonymity of Internet media–email, web sites, and Internet forums–make them ideal communication channels for militant groups and terrorist organizations. As a result, terrorists groups and their followers have created a vast presence on the Internet. A recent report estimates that there are more than 5,000 Web sites created and maintained by known international terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, the Iraqi insurgencies, and many home-grown terrorist cells in Europe. Many of these sites are produced in multiple languages and can be hidden within innocuous-looking Web sites.
Because of its vital role in coordinating terror activities, analyzing Web content has become increasingly important to the intelligence agencies and research communities that monitor these groups, yet the sheer amount of material to be analyzed is so great that it can quickly overwhelm traditional methods of monitoring and surveillance.
This is where the Dark Web project comes in. Using advanced techniques such as Web spidering, link analysis, content analysis, authorship analysis, sentiment analysis and multimedia analysis, Chen and his team can find, catalogue and analyze extremist activities online. According to Chen, scenarios involving vast amounts of information and data points are ideal challenges for computational scientists, who use the power of advanced computers and applications to find patterns and connections where humans can not…
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