Israel social media monitoring nabs would-be attackers wpxi database join types

Israel: Social media monitoring nabs would-be attackers JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli authorities have foiled over 200 Palestinian attacks by monitoring social media and sifting through vast amounts of data to identify prospective assailants ahead of time, according to Israel’s public security minister.

These pre-emptive actions put Israel at the forefront of an increasingly popular – and controversial – trend used by intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world that use big data technology to track would-be criminals. While the technology appears to be effective, its tactics drew angry Palestinian condemnation and have raised questions about civil liberties.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who oversees the national police force, said Israel‘s use of algorithms and other technology has been an important factor in lowering the number of knife and shooting attacks in Israel in recent years.


He planned on sharing Israel’s knowledge with counterparts at an international security conference he is hosting that begins Tuesday.

"They are trying to justify the various ways in which they violate the Palestinian people’s rights, including the right to due process and the right to privacy, using Facebook and using social media as a means of gleaning information to prove people’s guilt ahead of time," she said.

In September 2015, Israel found itself facing a wave of stabbings, shootings and car rammings carried out by "lone wolf" attackers, or individuals unaffiliated with militant groups acting on their own. It was a significant departure from past waves of organized violence led by armed groups like Hamas.

Since then, Palestinians have killed over 50 Israelis, while Israeli forces have killed over 260 Palestinians, most of whom Israel says were attackers. However, the number of attacks has dropped significantly – from 170 "serious attacks" in 2016 to 90 last year to 25 this year, according to Erdan’s ministry.

Research compiled by Erdan’s office points in both directions. Erdan said that interviews with jailed attackers have found that many suffered from personal problems, such as depression or family pressure to enter an arranged marriage, but were also inspired to act, often with little notice, by violent material online.

Erdan, who is also minister of strategic affairs, the agency responsible for fighting the BDS movement, said Israel has turned to various technologies to counter the attacks. That includes facial recognition devices and smart cameras that detect suspicious behavior in real time.

Members include psychologists, legal advisers and experts who have developed algorithms that analyze online activity. Violent posts, the suspect’s profile, such as age or hometown, and other supporting evidence are factored into the analysis.

Ashrawi, the Palestinian official, questioned the claims that suspects had confessed, saying anyone can be pressured into confessing to anything. She also noted that Palestinians are subject to Israel’s military court system, which has a near 100 percent conviction rate. "What is incredible to me, the rest of the world is not horrified by what is happening here," she said.

Andrew Ferguson, a professor at the David A. Clark School of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, said Israel appears to be one of the world leaders in using big data for policing activity. He said some U.S. police departments have begun using similar techniques, albeit on a much smaller scale due to civil liberties concerns.

Despite such concerns, he believes the know-how Israel has gathered can help allies deal with similar attacks. He said expertise will be shared with other participants at this week’s conference, which kicks off Tuesday. Participants include U.S. Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and to officials from Belgium, Germany, Kenya, Singapore, Spain and other countries.

The agenda will include terrorism, radicalization and cyberattacks. High on the agenda will be government relationships with social media companies. Even with all the technology at his disposal, Erdan said he believes the social media giants should do far more to stop the spread of online hate.

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