Catching bad guys with data

Extremist rhetoric online, data science and counterspeech: an expert’s view.

Jonathon Morgan is the Founder/CEO of New Knowledge, a data scientist and researcher of violent extremism. He has studied the communication of jihadists online and recently written an insightful and alarming analysis on the rise of violent rhetoric within the American far right. He also hosts an excellent data science podcast. I had the opportunity to talk to him on the subject of extremist groups online for Tages-Anzeiger, with Süddeutsche Zeitung running the piece as well. On the mentioned sites an abbreviated and slightly edited version appeared. Here’s the english transcript of the interview.

You wrote that you’re interested in “catching bad guys with data” – how does that work?

Just like in real life: Criminals, extremists, people who cause harm engage in behaviors with a certain signature. They do this online and in the real world. These patterns can be fairly complex and I use new techniques to analyse data and new machine learning techniques to recognise them. It’s a way that gives a lot of opportunities to identify extremists and develop strategies for counteracting them. In a law enforcement way but also when it comes to understanding how to stop people from being radicalized. And perhaps create a society where extremists have less success preying upon people who are vulnerable.

What is your motivation?

I’d like to live in a world where people aren’t compelled to hurt one another. I’d like to live in a society where these hateful antagonistic organisations aren’t a preferable alternative to mainstream society.

In your work you have studied different groups of extremists and their behaviour online. How do you gain information on them? Weiterlesen →