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U.S. Embraces Arms Control by Social Media

August 28, 2012 12:00 PM

The U.S. State Department is now banking on the possibility that the rise of social media may offer a new means of monitoring for arms-control violations. Imagine an army of sensors made up of ordinary citizens willing, in theory, to keep their governments in check and prove they aren’t violating arms-control treaties. That’s the concept behind the State Department’s “innovation in arms control challenge,” a contest that will offer a cash prize of $10,000 to the best idea, or ideas, for using social media to spot arms-control violators.

The contest, which the State Department is set to announce today, is the brainchild of Rose Gottemoeller, a State Department official known lately as much for her embrace of social media as for her longtime expertise in arms control.

Gottemoeller, the acting undersecretary for arms control and international security, told Popular Mechanics in an interview that the department will be open to any approach, but she suggested some possible apps. For example: something that mines social media data, such as Twitter feeds, to spot evidence of a banned chemical weapons stockpile or an undeclared missile plant. Or, perhaps compiling data from tens or even hundreds of thousands of iPads, which are equipped with accelerometers that could be used to monitor for ground tremors to detect a possible nuclear event.

Those who follow social media and data mining expressed enthusiasm about the State Department’s challenge while also pointing out some of the unique difficulties such an application could pose. Social media can prove a boon for uncovering intelligence, but it has to be monitored and analyzed by experts in the context of other sources of intelligence, says Gareth Ham, the head of insights at Brandwatch, a U.K.-based firm that performs social media monitoring. “We can’t simply hold a finger in the air of social networking and obtain noteworthy findings,” he says.   Read More

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Posted on August 28, 2012, in #social media and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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