A Liberty Speaks Exclusive: The Jester Effect and #iAWACS
“The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious.“ -John Scully
Hypothetically these scenarios are occurring right now:
- A protest has gone from peaceful assembly to a full riot.
- A major storm is bearing down on an city.
- A breaking news story is trending on Twitter.
- A shooting has occurred and the suspect is at large but authorities do not have a description.
- Credible Intel reports say a terrorist attack may be imminent, however, the target and means of the attack are not known.
Protests, riots, natural disasters, terror attacks, shootings and breaking news can occur with little or no warning. The response by law enforcement, emergency services deployment and news coverage is mostly reactive in nature. Information coming in and going out on social media can be unreliable, which adds to the chaos and can hinder reaction times.
However, people are using Twitter to document what they are hearing and seeing in real time as these events occur; images, video, and statements are being posted publicly for the world to see. In some cases, conversations are taking place and posted before an incident occurs.
So, how can Twitter be utilized in a cohesive and specific manner to track these events, coordinate emergency responses, and get information out to the public? Can we sort through the reactive chaos, oceans of hashtags, or perhaps even prevent an incident from occurring at all?
That dichotomy entered the mind of an individual you many have heard of. After years of using a very reactive approach of hacking jihadist websites to disrupt their activities, one of Time Magazine’s Top 30 Most Influential individuals on the Internet has a new mission that has nothing to do with hacking.
Cyber Warrior JΞSTΞR ✪ ΔCTUAL has created a very proactive web application called internet-AWACS or #iAWACS. The title uses a play on words using the acronym for Airborne Warning and Control System. It’s specifically tailored to Twitter and eventually can be tailored for individual needs and scenarios. According to Jester, it’s ‘Signal Intelligence for Social Media’.
Jester agreed to answer some questions about the project. When asked what the catalyst and motivation was behind the development of #iAWACS he explained:
“Original concept came after the Boston Bombing. I remember how authorities called upon anyone on social media to help them with images, videos, and more. I thought to myself there’s gotta be an easier way to focus the internet directly onto specific, areas, events, or demographics in near real-time.”
What he came up with is an “out of the box” solution to that very scenario, as well as the ones listed at the top of this article.
Now, because I’m not technically inclined, my understanding of the workings behind the project is limited. However, I personally have used #iAWACS and from a blogger perspective it has been extremely useful.
#iAWACS currently consists of 5 nodes or data points that capture public tweets according to parameters set for each individual node. They are listed in his article about the project “What US Social Media Is Doing and What US Social Media Should be Doing” on his website Jesters Court .
- FIREHOSE – Mesmerizing and totally unfiltered node that allows you to watch the world go by as it captures & returns all Geo-tagged tweets and images, and builds a heat map in real time – THIS IS BIG DATA.
- DRONEBAIT – This node listens out just for Jihadi chatter and propaganda imagery on social media. Where possible it will plot course location on the map
- ACTIVESHOOTER – This node has its ears on for early warning signs of an active shooter situation anywhere in the world, if the unthinkable occurs you’ll hear it here first.
- TRENDINGUSA – This node monitors current trending topics, phrases, hashtags across the United States.
- MAJOR INCIDENT – This node activates in the event of a National Security incident, Natural disaster and other events. Also contains relevant local LIVE emergency responder audio feed.
- DEMO NODE – Demonstration Node showing some real time capabilities, visualizations, and live local audio feed that can be delivered during a real world event. (Current DEMO NODE is listening for tweets mentioning NYPD, LIVE NYPD AUDIO & NYC Airspace Monitoring.)
Each node captures public tweets/images and current sentiment on a positive/negative scale.
DRONEBAIT, ACTIVESHOOTER, MAJOR INCIDENT, and TRENDINGUSA also allow the user to access a 3D flyby of tweets, tag cloud and airspace of area in question.
Radio Transmissions of EMS, Police, and other local authorities are showcased in the ACTIVESHOOTER and MAJOR INCIDENT nodes.
The #iAWACS application can also run a Deep Dive Profiling of any public Twitter account. The results are derived from the IBM Watson Personality Insight Service and the “Big Five Factor Model of Personality” which uses linguistic analytics to infer the personality traits by analyzing a users public tweets.
Along with traits, the Deep Dive tracks times of activity and Geo-location when available. I took a test drive using my Twitter handle. The results are quite accurate.
Though #iAWACS is a still a work in progress, it’s already proven a useful tool. It’s captured several Active Shooter incidents, tracked the last two hurricanes to hit the US, has monitored and tracked multiple protests and riots across the country, and several terrorist attacks around the globe.
However, it is the DRONEBAIT node that has truly produced some interesting results. Two weeks before the September 17 bombings in New York and New Jersey, an uptick in Jihadi chatter was caught on the DRONEBAIT node.
— JΞSTΞR ✪ ΔCTUAL³³º¹ (@th3j35t3r) August 29, 2016
Looking at the graphic you can see New York was the 2nd highest in mentions next to Syria. Notice what method of attack was the highest? If you guessed bomb, you’re right.
This isn’t the first time increased Jihadi chatter had been captured on #iAWACS prior to a terrorist attack. Days before the attacks in Brussels another uptick was noted.
Another uptick in Jihadi chatter right now on DRONEBAIT iAWACS node >> https://t.co/aPKNIeXbH0 (Last one was 4 days ago b4 recent attacks)
— JΞSTΞR ✪ ΔCTUAL³³º¹ (@th3j35t3r) March 14, 2016
Long has the concern been that Jihadists are radicalizing and coordinating on Twitter before a terrorist attack occurs.
Intel agencies like CIA, DNI as well as University research groups and local Law Enforcement have been exploring ways Social Media can be utilized to predict, track and monitor civil unrest, terrorist activity, hate crimes, and the prevention of these events. They’re searching for a “Pre-Crime” solution similar to the one in Philip K. Dick’s Minority Report that uses 3 individuals gifted with precognition called “Pre-Cogs”.
Lancaster University did a research paper titled ‘Mining pro-ISIS radicalization signals from social media users‘ that tackles the very subject regarding the identification of individuals on Twitter who may be sympathetic to ISIS.
Here is an excerpt from that article:
The research provides evidence that shows when users begin either sharing tweets from known pro-ISIS accounts, or using extremist language – such as anti-western or pro-ISIS statements – they quickly display a large change in the language they use, tweeting new words and terms, and indicating a clear shift in online behavior.
Millions of dollars in federal funding and grants have gone into these projects, specifically the ones dealing with terror activity and radicalization. A few things that set Jester’s #iAWACS apart from these other projects:
- Jester has so far funded the entire project himself. A private citizen did this, not some multi-million dollar federally funded program.
- It has the ability to capture keywords and conversations from public Twitter accounts that are leaning towards radicalization and exhibiting a sympathetic nature towards ISIS, Al Qaeda and others terror groups in real-time.
- It’s functional right now and reporters, Law Enforcement, Intel groups and the general public all can access it.
Imagine if #iAWACS was around prior to the Boston Marathon bombing?
After the attack, Jester did his own research and found tweets that suggested coordination, planning, and discussion prior to the attack in Boston on the Twitter timelines of the individuals involved. All the tweets were public, out there for the world to see.
This begs the questions – What if the technology to capture those tweets would have been implemented back then? And would we might have been better equipped to possibly prevent the attack in the first place?
These questions were also posed by the Washington Post after the killing of 5 police officers in Dallas, Texas during a July 7th protest.
How artificial intelligence could help warn us of another Dallas https://t.co/7wrC7FSCYj
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) July 10, 2016
In that Washington Post article, the notion arises of whether “rumblings” of unrest on Twitter at these protests could be seen and tracked as possible precursors of future shootings.
Jester had the following to say about another set of protests that included the Black Panther Party in Baton Rouge on July 15th following the police shooting of Alton Sterling:
“I’m looking for any indication they are coordinating skirmishes. … I guess I’m expecting trouble in that location, so [I] have it trained on Baton Rouge preemptively,”
The Washington Post isn’t the only one to take notice of #iAWACS.
Darren Desmond, a former Operations Director in Cyber Threat Intelligence, Stilgherrian, a freelance journalist who covers the politics of the Internet, Cyber crime and security, and Chief Information Security Officer for the United States Navy John Lamme Sr. have all weighed in on the application and the reviews are very positive.
— Darren Desmond (@Darren_Desmond) October 7, 2016
— Stilgherrian (@stilgherrian) September 18, 2016
— John Lamm’e (@JohnLammeSr) March 23, 2016
Now that #iAWACS is granting Jester serious recognition, I asked if the evolution and shedding of the “Hacker” side of Jester’s persona was “part and parcel” to the creation of the project and what’s next in its development?
He replied, “I guess I’m known by most for ‘Tango Down’ – those days served their purpose at the time but have now passed. I’m more about creating instead of destroying these days.”
“The idea there was to make it difficult for the recruiters of homegrown radical Islam to operate on their own servers and to funnel them into a smaller space.” continued Jester, ” Smaller spaces are easier to watch.”
To get a great feel for what #iAWACS is capable of, check out the DEMO NODE. It captures all public tweets & images mentioning NYPD & NYC, has live audio of NYPD dispatch, Airspace Monitoring, 3D Flyover visualization, Tag cloud and Deep Dive Profiling access.
Regarding the next step for the application, Jester replied that, “I want to develop the profiling side some more, it currently looks at a users pattern of life, psychological traits, and locations where possible. I want to expand on that with force-directed connections charts based on who a user interacts with the most.”
Personally, I look forward to that next phase of the project.
In closing, Twitter can be a useful tool combined with #iAWACS in dealing with all the scenarios I first listed.
Intel agencies, law enforcement, journalists and the public can all use it to cut through the internet chaos, see what’s stirring in the timelines, and make sense of the millions of 140 character posts thrown out into the wild of Twitter every day.
“We monitor many frequencies. We listen always. Came a voice, out of the babel of tongues, speaking to us. It played us a mighty dub.” ― William Gibson
*J, thanks again for the pause button!
Thank you to Doug Ross Journal for Linking
Thank you to Grumpy Opinions for Linking