Increased migration is the characteristic feature of the second decade of the 21st century occupying the economic and human capacity of intelligence services all over the world. Let it be the European migrant crisis in 2015 or the last migration-related crisis at the Greek-Turkish border in 2020, it is crucial to examine the communication discourse surrounding the migration phenomenon to prevent future crises. This includes not only investigating what do refugees and migrants talk about, but also which media do they consume and share and if they are encouraged by particular actors.
Webinar led by Alexander Oberkersch, the Business Development Manager at SAIL LABS, showcases both theoretical background and practical real-life usage of open source intelligence (OSINT) when investigating migration related cases or threats.
In case you would want to know how can OSINT solution enable governments and various organizations to gather open source data and combine it with data from other sources, you can download our Migration Report covering the recent crisis at the Greek-Turkish border.
The Media Mining System is a platform designed for media monitoring, analysis and data-driven decision making by extracting and analyzing multilingual information from open sources, such as TV, radio, blogs, social media, etc., in real time. This webinar also provides the participants with an overview of the system’s features, which enable users to investigate stories, first source of any news, social media topics and much more, making it possible to navigate the vast amount of information and to identify and counter disinformation.
The intelligence cycle
Alexander explained the intelligence cycle accurate for both security organizations, companies’ business intelligence, reputation management or critical infrastructure protection. The cycle starts with 1) Planning and direction and continues with the 2) Collection, which determines where and how the data is being acquired and the information gathered. The 3) Processing phase comprises of validation, evaluation and confirming of the usefulness of the collected information. The next step is the 4) Analysis and Production where we define if the information is accurate, relevant and complete with regards to the original requirements set in the first phase Planning and direction. The last phase called 5) Dissemination and feedback consists of disseminating the content to the right hands, in the right format and at the right time.
The history of open source intelligence can be illustrated through a historical shift from a static information to a dynamic one. For instance, the television and printed newspapers represent slow information flow in fixed intervals. On the other hand, the information today is freely available 24/7 for everyone with an internet connection. We are presented with information on social media in real time that could be eye witness reports, pictures, videos, geo coordinates or opinions. An example of an event utilizing this technology is the Iranian Green Revolution in 2009 which is also called a Twitter revolution. Reason is that we are talking about a country that was relatively closed and this was one of the first moments where all of this information like videos and pictures were shared with the world. This is also beneficial to governmental clients as it offers a way of monitoring social media to obtain the information in a safe way without putting human agents on the ground in danger while also reducing costs.
Practical use case - Are Turkish authorities engaging in the migrants' trafficking?
After introducing the theory behind OSINT, Alexander explained that SAIL LABS was asked to investigate claims that the Turkish authorities were actively engaging in the trafficking of migrants during the migration crisis at the Greek-Turkish border in March 2020. Two hypotheses were created for this purpose:
1) Are Turkish authorities actively engaged in trafficking migrants to Greece?
To answer this question, relevant social media posts were investigated. One of the posts included a video claiming to show the Turkish police forces pushing migrants to get out of the bus while holding guns. Alexander played the mentioned video depicting the situation and showed what to look for when assessing the authenticity of the video. He showcased how to prove if the person on the video is the Turkish soldier or policeman with the help of OSINT tools available to everyone with an Internet connection.
2) Are refugee camps being shut in Turkey?
Alexander showed how this hypothesis could be corroborated by social media posts of refugees, traditional media or satellite images from the area.
Utilising satellite and aerial images, CCTV and social media activity
Satellite and aerial images are another crucial source when conducting an investigation of a certain location. Satellite and aerial images from the area of the Greek-Turkish border provide a vital verification of the activity at the border. Thanks to this material, trucks, buses, large crowds of migrants and soft shelters were identified. Combined with the social media material which also included CCTV footage, the specific type of a military vehicle trying to pull out the fence at the border was recognized.
Social media activity provides one of the key components of intelligence during a migration crisis, as it is crucial to examine the communication discourse. Social media provide a publicly available material informing about the current situation at the border and help analysts to determine what do migrants talk about, what videos and pictures they share, which media they consume and also help to determine if they are encouraged by particular actors.
If you missed the webinar, you can watch it below.
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