Look a bit further. Past the glare of the media’s spotlight on guns and mental health to the limelight just beyond. There, just by the path packed with news anchors, national policy analysts and special interest lobbyists rushing by with microphones and talking points, is one of the biggest unsung stories in our nation’s current focus on targeted violence prevention.
It has a long name: social media and open-source threat assessment monitoring. Whatever you call it, this recently emerged technical capability has the potential to play an enormous role in curtailing school violence. Why? First, understand that, unlike traditional open-source platforms such as television and radio, the Internet offers direct publication of user-generated content, creating knowledge repositories on nearly any subject, social trend and community – and, yes, even individual. Quite simply, the Internet gives everyone a voice – including the disaffected, angry, violent and extremist.
This revolution of information sharing, communications and engagement through user-generated content – and now, our ability to access it – is changing the face of targeted violence threat assessment. Almost overnight. That’s the exciting part of the story. The daunting – and technically challenging – part of it is this. Despite its incredible potential, monitoring the Internet to generate an accurate and comprehensive threat picture can be a formidable challenge. This is because the volume of information available is immense. And the technologies in place for monitoring, analysis and aggregation are still in their adolescent phase – and evolving constantly.
If corporations are just now learning to tap social media and open-source monitoring as an important facet of sophisticated, highly integrated security and risk management methodologies, can we really expect our nation’s schools to do the same? Yes. Why not? School administrators don’t have the resources, training or experience to stay on top of this information, so this service will need to be made available to school threat assessment teams. This arena – open-source threat assessment monitoring – is one of our core competencies. We know exactly what kind of information we should be looking for, from a traditional threat assessment perspective, and precisely how to apply this to the highly specialized challenges that underlie real-time, open-source data search and mining best practices to prevent violence. We also know how to conduct this monitoring in a fully lawful manner, without violating individuals’ privacy and First Amendment rights and without profiling individuals based on false, ineffective or misleading profiles. Therefore, today, our Act #9 is to commit to serving as a leader in the United States in integrating best practices in threat assessment and open-source threat discovery for use in our primary and secondary schools. This is such an important area, I will explore it further in tomorrow’s blog.