The social media landscape is experiencing a dramatic shift with millions of users migrating from mainstream platforms to alternative sites like Gab, MeWe, Rumble, CloutHub, Telegram, and Signal. This has dramatic implications for how threats are proliferated, identified, and mitigated. A strong security program must renew its focus on the evolving digital landscape by monitoring the full spectrum of open source social media threats.
As the world grows increasingly digital, so too does the threat. Social media has become a fundamental resource for individuals looking to perpetrate real world violence. Historically, mainstream social media sites have flourished as users flocked to centralized platforms. As these companies captured a global audience, activists, organizers, and even homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) capitalized on their capacity for connection and organization. Social platforms became the organizing fulcrum of the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street Protests, and even a recruitment tool for ISIS. In response, security organizations began monitoring open source social media to identify events that could impact business continuity and security, tracking events from local peaceful protests to threats of violence and extremism.
Today, the social media equation is undergoing another significant shift that affects how threats are proliferated, identified, and mitigated. In recent weeks, millions of social media users have migrated from mainstream platforms to alternative sites. Some were forced, and others chose to move in response to more rigorous content moderation. Over the past few months, sites like Parler, Gab, MeWe, Rumble, CloutHub, Telegram, and Signal have been adding hundreds of thousands of users each day. As new sites continue to emerge, the market diversifies and the landscape grows increasingly complex.
This diversification indicates that users are self-sorting into smaller groups based on ideology. They are entering more rigid silos and echo chambers where extremist ideas may proliferate and turn into real world violence. Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT told Fortune Magazine, “Migrating users may also be exposed to more dangerous groups that are already on the apps because of their relatively lax content moderation.” As open source social media usage diversifies, these sites may become new areas of radicalization, necessitating a proactive security approach.
To address the evolution of the threat, it is vital to monitor the full spectrum of publicly available information across all open source social media platforms and the deep web. Since the onset of the social media era, MSA Security’s Intelligence Program has done just this. Our program’s success is rooted in a unique pairing of technology and human analysis, married together to yield robust and rigorous threat monitoring capabilities.
MSA relies on technology partners to access repositories of searchable open source content from more than 50 social media sites. We are also able to scan URL content, blogs, forums, social media, consumer reviews, traditional news outlets, and specialized and highly relevant commercially available data. In today’s digital threat climate, it is critical to monitor the broadest possible range of sources, geographies, and languages to get a full picture of the threat landscape.
As the amount of data and content on the web can overwhelm a security program, it becomes essential to hone in on credible threats that have the potential to directly impact the threat landscape and business security. MSA analysts review and analyze this raw data, filtering through the white noise to identify probable and actual threats. We built an around-the-clock program leveraging a team of analysts with diverse skill sets and backgrounds that span academia, journalism, law enforcement, and the military. Together, the team maintains an understanding of the big picture threat landscape that effectively informs threat identification and analysis. Clients, in turn, are only notified about threats directly impacting their security program.
As the dynamic social media landscape continues to evolve, access to diverse data sets across a range of platforms will become increasingly critical to threat monitoring and security planning. MSA’s team will continue to evolve and innovate, as we have done for over 10 years, to meet the requirements of the current threat landscape.
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