We’re all saddened by the tragic events in Arizona last weekened. Of course, media pundits have been busy assigning blame. And politicos have been equally busy fending off any patina of guilt.
And of course, social commentators, psychologists and criminologists are pondering how to detect and prevent such heinous crimes. Gun control, screening mental patients, etc. are among the proposed suggestions.
But one stone unturned at this the point is the possibility of using social media monitoring to detect potential threats. Once detected, the threat can be further analyzed using the powerful statistical capabilities of these monitoring tools.
While it’s unlikely such events can ever be prevented with 100% certainty, here’s how social media monitoring (Radian, Alterian, etc.) could help identify and minimize threats.
1. These individuals want to be seen and heard. Jared Loughner, the alleged perpetrator of the Arizona shooting had created disturbing YouTube videos. He also had a MySpace page. Social media provides an outlet for the lonely, disenfranchised, attention-craving individual who might tend toward antisocial or criminal acts. Social media monitoring could profile such individuals and at least place them on a watch list.
2. Use of social media location-based apps could help track movements of such individuals. For example, if someone on the watch list posted a Facebook update that they were going to kill such-and-such and then Foursquare showed they have checked-in at a gun store, that would certainly be a red flag.
3. The monitoring could be provided by the social media monitoring companies as a service to society, rather than just getting us to buy more widgets or to cover corporate asses. Or government could invest in such a service.
It’s about time to use the technology we have and the typical behaviors of such individuals to minimize the likelihood of a similar tragedy.