Social Media Analytics Drivers

By Aydin Farrokhi and Dr. Wael Hassan

Today, the public has remarkable power and reach by which they can share their news, and express their opinion, about any product or services or even react to an existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues. For example, in marketing, consumer voices can have an enormous influence in shaping the opinions of other consumers. Similarly, in politics, public opinion can influence loyalties, decisions, and advocacy. 

While increasingly organizations are adopting and embracing social media, the motive for each establishment to use social media varies. Some of the key drivers for adopting social media include:

Economic drivers:

 

  • Market research and new product
  • Need for better consumer
  • Need to gain competitive
  • Need to improve customer
  • Need to develop new products and
  • Need to increase Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI)
  • Top strategic actions to maximize social media spend
  • Improve ability to respond to customer’s wants and needs
  • Build social media measurement into marketing campaigns and brand promotions
  • Maximize marketing campaign and effectiveness
  • Align social media monitoring capabilities to overall business objectives

 

Political drivers:

  • Public opinion research and new motto
  • Need for better public
  • Need to gain competitive
  • Need to improve public
  • Need to develop new
  • Need to increase Return on Campaigning Investment (ROCI)
  • Top strategic actions to maximize social media spend
  • Improve ability to respond to the public’s wants and needs
  • Build social media measurement into political campaign and publicity promotions
  • Maximize political campaign and effectiveness
  • Align social media monitoring capabilities to overall political agenda

 

In general, there are three major categories of methods for analyzing social media data. These analytical tools can be grouped as either Content Analysis tools, Group and Network Analysis tools or Prediction tools.

 

 

 

Social Media as Political Warfare

The rise of social media has immeasurable power. Whereas in the past, people would get their recent news updates from television or the radio, now it is regular, lay people (often in 140 characters or less) spreading the news. While sharing opinion on social media outlets has the power to liberate and empower people, the messages spread can be harmful and downright abusive.
Social media has changed history. The creation of tactical narratives spread through social media channels is now at the core of modern strategic communication strategies in business, politics and even in warfare. Particularly in politics around the world, the ease of spreading messages from your finger trips has led to a phenomenon in political warfare that has shaped public’s opinions and influence election outcomes. Such digital manipulation has even gone so far as to make policy makers, military leaders and intelligence agencies struggle adapt to the changing climate.

One example of this is the election season of Iran. At the time, the majority of the posts were bashing the election and did not even come from the people of Iran themselves. In particular, it was the Western media outlets that were bursting with an outbreak in protesters using Twitter, blogs, and other social media outlets to spread propaganda, coordinate rallies, share information (that may or may not have been true), and locate supporters. Extensive media coverage highlighted the role of social networking, both in helping organize activities and in causing a rise in cyber activism surrounding the Iranian protests that resulted in an unpresented global debate. In just exploring the sheer volume of information published in real-time through social networks, one can see how this was just one of the most major world event that was broadcasted worldwide almost entirely via social media. While social media allowed an international community of protestors (and some supporters) an unprecedented peek into the turmoil afflicting Iran, politicians also were found to be using social media as a way to mobilize voters as the societal messages discussed on social media became campaign themes for presidential candidates. One of the largest issues, however, was the discussion of how politicians in Iran were using the social networks to advance their own political schemata, yet still opposed free access to the internet for all.

A secondary example of political warfare that steamed from social media is the over 8000 tweets on terrorist and racist comments that came within hours of Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a Saturday a new terrorist-monitoring center. The Ideological War Center, which launched operations in April of this year, stated that it would correct what it calls “misguidance” about Islam through its channels on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Within hours of its announcement, the Ideological War Center attracted numerous people, including individuals who have been born, lived and grew up in non-Muslim countries. However, there was no time to distinguish false stories from real ones about what the Islamic faith really entails. Instead, each new post contributed to some element of racist thought, which seems counteractive to the Center’s aim of exposing mistakes, allegations, suspicions and deceptive techniques promoted by extremists and terrorists. As such an ideologist war of sorts has been created in which the aim of deterring terrorist and extremist organizations has been met with the continuous breeding of false, racist ideas that linger and thieve on social media platforms.

Lastly, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states that have severed ties with Qatar have declared severe penalties for those who support Qatar. The Attorney General has made it very clear that it is now punishable by law to show sympathy on social media or by any other means of communication for Qatar. The cybercrime law came into effect in December 2012 and covers a comprehensive scope of offences in categories including undermining state security, political stability, morality and proper conduct. The Federal Public Prosecution also announced that according to the Federal Penal Code and the Federal law decree on Combating Information Technology Crimes, anyone who threaten the interests, national unity and stability of the UAE will face a jail term from three to 15 years, and a fine not less than AED 500,000 ($136,000). “Strict and firm action will be taken against anyone who shows sympathy or any form of bias towards Qatar, or against anyone who objects to the position of the United Arab Emirates, whether it be through the means of social media, or any type of written, visual or verbal form,” United Arab Emirates Attorney General Hamad Saif al-Shamsi was quoted as saying in a statement.

From Facebook to Twitter, YouTube, Snapchat, or Instagram social media users are besieged with political content, and participate in it readily, which has led to social media being seen as a type of political warfare. Unlike traditional media, social media has a heightened reach, frequency, permanence and immediacy. As such, social media has become a loud speaker of beliefs, a designer of meaning and a producer of conflicts.

There are three things that need to be done to help minimizing the negative effects of this for politicians, and for those concerned about upholding true information: the better filtering of chatbots that post negative, and disruptive; the better identification of fake news; and the better identification of mass manipulation. Current technological developments in artificial intelligence, such as Chatbots that serve as conversational entities relying on artificial intelligence to spread information or in most cases concerted and repeated skewed information, have become important factors in this war of words. Further, fake news is growing and causing a culture of digital anonymity that facilitates hate speech and misinformation to manipulate a mass amount of people. Fortunately, companies that use social media analytics tools, such as KI SOCIAL, are in a position whereby their teams have the technical and intellectual means to detect fake news and Chatbots and the knowledge to better identify mass manipulations (and how to respond).
The political landscape has changed quite a bit in the last couple of decades and social media, in part, is responsible for this change. While social media can be a source of good, it has also come at a price- as a commodity of political warfare.

Political Cyber Security

The daily life and economics of the global citizen depend each time more on a stable, secure, and resilient cyberspace. Even before was elected president, Donald Trump promised to make cybersecurity “an immediate and top priority for [his] administration.” Yet, months into his presidency, Trump and global leaders worldwide have struggled to deal with how policies should use their personal technology.

Cybersecurity has gotten sucked into the inevitable vortex of politicization.

Perhaps things first came into media attention when it was discovered that Hillary Clinton was using a private email server when she was Secretary of State. In response, Clinton has said that her use of personal email was in compliance with federal laws and State Department regulations, and that former secretaries of state had also maintained personal email accounts, though not their own private email servers. In a summary of its investigation into Clinton’s use of private email, the FBI concluded that a username and password for an email account on the server was compromised by an unknown entity, which had logged into the compromised email, read messages, and browsed attachments using a service called Tor. Unique to Hillary’s case is that the FBI had repeatedly noted that if a breach did occur that its agents might not be able to tell, but that there was no evidence previously to indicate that Hillary Clinton’s personal email account was hacked.

More recently, the campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was hit on May 5th, 2017 with leaked emails and other documents on a file-sharing website. Security analysts are under the impression that the huge leak of emails Macron’s campaign team might have been coordinated by the same group of individuals behind the Democratic National Committee leak that effected Clinton.  In fact, the Macron campaign directly compared the hacking directly to the hacker targeting of Clinton campaign, in a statement that read: “Intervening in the last hour of an official campaign, this operation clearly seeks to destabilize democracy, as already seen in the United States’ last president campaign. We cannot tolerate that the vital interests of democracy are thus endangered.”

However, with the ‘Macron-hack’ emerged as an anonymous poster provided links to documents on Pastebin with the message: “This was passed on to me today so now I am giving it to you, the people.” This serves as an example of how authentic documents can easily be mixed on social media with fakes to perpetuate fake messages that can harm political campaigns. While France’s electoral commission aimed to prevent this hack from influencing the election by warning local media that sanctions can be placed on them if they spread this information, the overall effect this link will have on Macron is unknown.

While we acknowledge that it is difficult to assess the impact of breaches done to a single account on a server, these incidences raise fresh questions about the security of other electronic accounts of politicians.

Politicians are particularly vulnerable to cybersecurity threats for the following reasons:

  • All politicians use different or even multiple platforms (windows, mobile, app, etc.), different email systems (gmail, Hotmail, corporate exchange, yahoo) and different file sharing systems (dropbox, box, icloud) that makes it harder to employ the strictest security standards on each one
  • Politicians work with a lot of individuals for temporary amounts of time, such a volunteers. As such, it is hard to know who you’re working with sometimes.
  • There is also a lack of centralized administration. Cybersecurity tends to ascent traditional political fault lines, making it at best confusing territory for politicians.

Despite which side of the political aisle your ideas land on, there is little debate that cybersecurity continues to be a hot issue.  Nowadays, for politicians, ignoring cyber issues could derail their career. Whether it be governments, individuals, or even campaign trails – the political cybersecurity world has experienced resurgence of threats.

Fortunately, the Blockchain’s alternative approach to storing and sharing information provides a way out of this security mess for four very important reasons:

  1. The decentralized consensus nature of Blockchains makes it almost impossible to break into it.
  2. Its platform agnostic, so it runs on any combination of operating system and underlying processor architecture.
  3. Once configured, it does not need an administrator
  4. Malware cannot break into it

A Blockchain is a register of records prepared in data batches called blocks that use cryptographic validation to link themselves together. Publishing keys on a Blockchain instead would eliminate the risk of false key propagation and enable applications to verify the identity of the people you are communicating with. Similarly, using a public Blockchain like Bitcoin would mean your entire system is decentralized with no single point of failure for attackers to target. As of right now, Estonia is one of the first countries to use Blockchain this way, although other governments are slowly warming up to Blockchain technology.

Moreover, there’s a rising tide for big data analytics to help combat cyber-threats and attackers. Social analytics tools can help be the first line of defense for politicians by combining machine learning, text mining modeling to provide an all-inclusive and amalgamated approach to security threat prediction, detection, and deterrence.
The cyberspace is the underlying infrastructure that holds the key to the modernity in technology. These types of threats are real and actively happening. The types of threats that have impacted politicians in the USA and Europe are real and actively happening. Blockchains and analytic tools will not be the golden ticket to fix everything that’s wrong with cybersecurity for politicians, but they can be a place to start. The Blockchain provides innovations that current systems and politicians could embrace.

For more information on how to protect yourself as a politician, please contact Waël Hassan, PhD.