Improving Situation Awareness in Social Unrest Using Twitter

A Methodological Approach

Authored by: Peter K. Forster , Samantha Weirman

Fields of Practice and Applied Solutions within Distributed Team Cognition

Print publication date:  September  2020
Online publication date:  September  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138626003
eBook ISBN: 9780429459542
Adobe ISBN:


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In August 2017, the planned Unite the Right rally organized by Richard Spencer brought right-wing extremists (e.g., white supremacists and neo-Nazis), various militia groups, and counter-protestors including some members of violent left-wing extremist groups to Charlottesville, Virginia. On August 12, the confrontation between the right-wing extremists and counter-protestors deteriorated into a running street battle that culminated with a vehicle ramming attack perpetrated by a white supremacist causing one death and multiple injuries. This chapter analyzes Twitter data to determine whether a relationship between Twitter communications and mobilization of groups culminating in threats and frictions between potentially violent groups exists. The researchers conducted an analysis of the Twitter data from August 8 to August 15, 2017, which resulted in a clearly understandable correspondence between online communications and real-world events. As a result, the chapter concludes that using online communications to improve law enforcement’s situation awareness is a viable method.

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