Sources of Information for social media open source intelligence networks in the Russia-Ukraine conflict

In the social media open source intelligence network, the social media platform is not only the circulation field of open source intelligence, but also the information source of open source intelligence. The study found that there are three main sources of information for the intelligence network.

1. Collect public data through big data mining technology

Big data mining is an important means for military bloggers to obtain open source intelligence. Military bloggers use big data mining technology to obtain open source data and conduct intelligence analysis from social platforms, public websites, satellite maps and other channels, and often share intelligence content on social media in the form of visual charts. For example, Ragnar Gudmundsson (@ragnarbjartur), an Icelandic political scientist and economist, extensively collects open source information related to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Relying on Google’s data studio platform Looker Studio, he creates and operates a visualization website that records data on the Russian-Ukrainian battlefield. The information sources of the visualization website include not only the Ministry of National Defense of Russia and Ukraine, but also third-party organizations such as the United Nations Refugee Agency, NATO, and the US State Department, as well as the open source intelligence research self-organization "Oryx" and personal blogger Lee Drak.

2. Relying on social platforms to build open source intelligence network communities

In order to promote the sharing and exchange of open source intelligence to the greatest extent, some open source intelligence self-organizations and personal bloggers created open source intelligence online communities on popular foreign social platforms such as Twitter, Discord, and Telegram. According to the difference in the strength of relationship connections provided by social platforms, open source intelligence online communities can be divided into the following two types.

a. Open source intelligence network communities in the environment of "weak ties"

Twitter is an overseas social platform based on "weak ties". Military bloggers have established a relatively close open-source intelligence relationship network on Twitter by following, liking, reposting, and commenting, etc., to achieve a relatively "strong connection" of social relations guided by personal interests and using open-source intelligence as a medium. The results of social network analysis show that a group of military bloggers @oryxspioenkop, @bellingcat, @Osinttechnical, @DefMon3, etc. have formed a closely connected online community of concern on the Twitter platform.

b. Open source intelligence network communities in the environment of "strong ties"

Discord is a foreign social platform that provides voice chat services. Users with the same hobbies can initiate the establishment of exclusive chat servers, and each chat server forms a community that can be made public or private, and community members thus form a "strong connection" of social relationships. "Project Owl" is currently the largest open source intelligence online community known to be established on Discord, with 31,800 members. The "Project Owl" community includes #russia-ukraine-news, #ru-ua-speculation, #russia-ukraine-osint and other hashtags related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The creators of hashtags @monarchiav, @vexovex, @Nukes and others are from the United States, Israel, Ukraine and other countries. New York Times visual investigative reporter Evan Hill (@evanhill) also co-founded the community.

3. Use crowdsourcing mechanism to realize information sharing and co-construction of intelligence database

Military bloggers rely on social media to establish an open source intelligence network community, providing support for relationship connections for intelligence sharing. Some voluntary organizations use the "crowdsourcing" mechanism to collect open source information and reproduce and utilize it, and jointly build an open source intelligence library with the help of visualization. Both the open-source intelligence database "Russio-Ukrainian Warspotting" and the open-source map "Eyes on Russia" use crowdsourcing mechanisms to form a "peer production" model for collecting and sharing information on the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.