Social Media Monitoring an Emergent Technology for Modern Risks

By Tim Hendrickson

Last month’s case study regarding our “slanderous woodchuck” was derived from an alert created by TruView’s social media monitoring (SMM) service, part of our comprehensive TruView360 risk-based investigative services. This month, we’ll expand on this service, detailing its application and potential benefits. As more social media platforms come into existence (and more and more adverse content is posted), deploying TruView360 SMM as an early warning system could mitigate costly or embarrassing incidents for your organization through detection and subsequent intervention.

TruView360’s social media monitoring combines the best practices of AI technology, analytic algorithms, and expert human analysis to gain critical open source intelligence that may impact our clients. It works by pulling publicly available data on social media sites, platforms, and aggregators—literally billions of posts—for preprogrammed adverse terminology combinations through a series of filters and algorithms. Once the decision to deploy TruView360 SMM has been made, we work with the client to create a custom threat matrix that focuses on their unique characteristics, interests, demographics, and conditions. For example, the company Axis Chemicals might have a keywords list that includes terms such as: “spill,” “spillage,” “contaminated,” “evacuate,” and so on. At the same time, location-based terminology is instituted, so that the algorithms can link your threat terms to your specific sites. This might include such phrases as: “Axis,” “Axis Chemicals,” “Gotham,” “Gotham City,” and so forth.

The location and threat terminologies are then applied through three system designations, each one with a specific function that compliments the other. These are: Geolocate, Geofence, and Global.

In Geolocate, the specific location terms are applied, such as in our Axis Chemicals example. If individuals are posting while using the plant name in conjunction with threat terminology, the TruView360 application will capture the data and forward it to an analyst for review. Or, if there were indications of potential workplace violence at the plant, terms such as “kill,” “hate,” “destroy,” and “hospital” and other more descriptive language could be added to the threat matrix. Our team then would be instantly notified of a tweet that used these keywords.

Using Geolocate technology, Axis Chemicals is able to monitor for adverse terminology being stated against it, without having to potentially review the individual, publicly available social media accounts of hundreds of employees.

Geofence complements this service by adding a virtual inclusion zone around a specific location. This is an enhanced level of protection that captures threat content posted within the confines of the geofence, while not necessarily matching the location terminology. For example, another company, Gotham Crane and Construction, has massive cranes at various buildings and job sites, not just within the city but also across the country. In order to keep track of all data, a “geofence” is deployed at all of their sites, along with the location terminology.

In this example, a tourist on the street below might take a picture of a crane listing to one side atop a building and post it to Instagram with the caption:

“Crane looks like it’s about to collapse!”

While the terms, “crane” and “collapse” are included, no specific company or location information is mentioned in the post. For a firm that may have hundreds of cranes in service (not to mention with there being hundreds of competitors’ cranes in the area), it could potentially take hours to determine which site the Instagram post was referring to—and even if it referred to Gotham Crane and Construction at all. The Geofence application eliminates this process. Since a virtual inclusion zone was placed around the job site with a 10-block radius, the tourist’s post would have been captured because the tourist was within the Geofence. The subsequent alert to the company would then detail the specific location, allowing Gotham Crane and Construction to initiate their emergency response protocols and intervene before a potentially disastrous situation could unfold.

Finally, the Global function serves to compliment the other two filters by combing social media for threat terminology that might not necessarily apply to specific locations. Terms such as: “lawsuit,” “scandal,” “class action,” “violation,” “arrest,” and “prosecution,” for example, can be added and screened for. Alerts containing this information could provide an early warning to companies about potentially negative or dangerous situations, giving executives and public relations personnel a head start in responding. Since this content isn’t tied to any specific location, we work closely with the client to craft Global terminology that ensures relevancy and immediacy, eliminating extraneous alerts that don’t apply.

In today’s world, social media content travels faster than news outlets can report it. TruView360’s social media monitoring service keeps pace by instantly identifying and classifying content that could signify a threat, reveal an emerging issue, or pinpoint adverse information. Intelligence is quickly analyzed so clients are in front of financial, safety, legal, and reputational threats. Its applications and threat matrices are virtually endless. TruView is ready to assist in crafting your specific program and work with you as a partner to enhance your preparedness and minimize risk.

Tim Hendrickson is Managing Director – Investigations for TruView BSI, LLC, responsible the company’s global investigative and risk-based intelligence operations. Tim is a former commissioned U.S. Army Officer with five years of active duty service, including two deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, where he maintained a Top Secret Clearance as a Military Intelligence Officer and analyst, serving as a military advisor and liaison to the National Information and Investigation Agency, the Iraqi government’s equivalent of our own FBI.