The Value of Social Networks in Open Source Intelligence

With the cross-integration evolution of technologies, the types of social networks continue to grow, covering almost all areas of people's daily life. Social networking sites have the greatest impact on open source intelligence work, and common application types include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.

1. Social networks aggregate a wealth of intelligence material

According to the "FMI 2-22. 9 Open Source Intelligence" handbook, there are five broad categories of sources of open source intelligence.

a.academic institution

b.Government organizations

c. Intergovernmental Organizations/Non-Governmental Organizations

d. Commercial and public information service agencies

e. Libraries and research centres, individuals and groups

Today, these five major categories of channels have all become users of social networks without exception, and the number is huge.

The presence of a large number of professional content producers such as governments, media, enterprises, and academic institutions has greatly improved the quality of open source intelligence on social networks.

2. Social Networks Make Access to Open Source Intelligence Easier and Efficient

First of all, social networks bring together various information production entities on a relatively centralized platform to form an open source intelligence database, making intelligence acquisition more convenient.

Second, information storage in social networks is realized in digital form, so computer technologies such as search engines are used to make intelligence extraction more efficient.

Third, most mainstream social networking sites are open platforms. That is, their software systems enable external programs to increase the functions of the software system or use the resources of the software system by disclosing its application programming interface, without changing the source code of the software system. This means that intelligence workers can collect and analyze information and data on social networking sites through third-party software or by writing special programs.

3. Social Networks Improve the Effectiveness of Open Source Intelligence

With the rapid development of mobile applications of social networks, mainstream social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter with a large number of users have become gathering places for instant information. Especially in emergencies, social networks usually become the first source of information. Intelligence workers can obtain fresh information and even crisis clues through social networks.

For example, the Open Source Center of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) accurately predicted the unrest in Egypt and Tunisia in 2014 by monitoring Facebook and Twitter messages to keep abreast of the global pulse.

To sum up, as a source of open source intelligence, social networks have the advantages of rich resources, high efficiency and convenience, low cost, and low risk.

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