Do Machines Replicate Humans? Toward a Unified Understanding of Radicalizing Content on the Open Social Web

Margeret Hall, Michael Logan, Gina Ligon, Doug Derrick

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

Abstract

The advent of the Internet inadvertently augmented the functioning and success of violent extremist organizations. Terrorist organizations like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) use the Internet to project their message to a global audience. The majority of research and practice on web-based terrorist propaganda uses human coders to classify content, raising serious concerns such as burnout, mental stress, and reliability of the coded data. More recently, technology platforms and researchers have started to examine the online content using automated classification procedures. However, there are questions about the robustness of automated procedures, given insufficient research comparing and contextualizing the difference between human and machine coding. This article compares output of three text analytics packages with that of human coders on a sample of one hundred nonindexed web pages associated with ISIS. We find that prevalent topics (e.g., holy war) are accurately detected by the three packages whereas nuanced concepts (Lone Wolf attacks) are generally missed. Our findings suggest that naïve approaches of standard applications do not approximate human understanding, and therefore consumption, of radicalizing content. Before radicalizing content can be automatically detected, we need a closer approximation to human understanding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109 - 138
JournalPolicy & Internet
Volume12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)

  • 102

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