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OU joins new EU research to track radicalisation online

The OU is among more than 20 partners across Europe launching a new research project to examine online radicalisation.

The project, called Trivalent, will look at ways to protect citizens around the globe from being targeted, and potentially enticed into endorsing and propagating violent radical content.

Comprehensive understanding

The OU’s part in the project is led by Professor of Web Science at The Open University Knowledge Media Institute (KMI), Harith Alani.

The goal is to create a more comprehensive understanding of violent radicalisation, by investigating the psychological and behavioral patterns, models and motivations for individuals. This will include the assessment of radicals’ language, integrations into online networks of radicals and the spread of radicalisation material.

Professor Alani’s role will be to use data-mining techniques, developed in KMI, to track and analyse the interactions of thousands of individuals in an effort to understand the behavioural and interaction patterns exhibited by the targeted citizens.

Triggers of radicalisation

The idea is to look for triggers to how people become radicalised for better prevention for individual citizens, whilst also upholding and protecting the freedom of speech.

Professor Alani explained:

My part will be to look for patterns of cross-fertilisation and to analyse models. We are only looking at what is shared and elsewhere in the project, others will examine how the social connections are made, what is shared and with whom.

The project aims to create a traffic light, early warning system and hopefully end up with a dynamic watch list of narratives or online triggers that could push citizens over the various stages of radicalisation.

Content mining techniques will be developed for analysing radicalisation narratives on websites and social media, and used together with statistical, linguistic, semantic, and social data analysis approaches to detect signs of online radicalization.

Prof Harith Alani

Professor Harith Alani

Professor Alani has a research background in online tracking and previously worked on analysing the activities of ISIS supporters on Twitter, and of paedophiles in child grooming online.

The three-year project was created as part of a European Horizon 2020 call from the SECURITY 2016 call for proposals. This inter-disciplinary project has 22 partners across Europe.

TRIVALENT (Terrorism prevention Via rAdicaLisation countEr-NarraTive), aims to achieve a better understanding of factors constituting violent radicalisation across Europe and is collaborating with seven different law enforcement agencies.

Photo by abegum