The killing of Mashaal Tammo through the eyes of Arabic social media

In this post, we show three things:

  1. The possibility of using Ethersource to monitor Arabic social media
  2. to detect violent on-line chatter, and
  3. to identify the real-worlds events underlying the resulting signal.

On the evening of Friday, October 7 2011, Kurdish opposition politician and founder of the Kurdish Future Movement Party Mashaal Tammo was shot dead by masked men in his home, in north eastern Syria. His killing was soon attributed to the regime of Syria. The next day, Saturday, October 8, the funeral party for Tammo, with 50,000 to 100,000 attendants, turned into the largest gathering of protesters since the start of the uprising seven months prior. Syrian security forces intercepted the crowd, and shot at least 5 people dead, injuring numerous others.

We’ve used Ethersource to monitor Syria in Arabic social media for quite some time. Image 1, below, illustrates the on-line violent chatter pertaining to Syria between Thursday, October 6, and Sunday, October 9, 2011; the weekend when Tammo was killed. Image 1 is annotated with the time of the killing of Tammo as he was reportedly attacked in the evening of the 7th (Syria being in a time zone one hour ahead of the time scale of the graph), and the approximate time for his funeral. What is striking is the surge in chatter after the demise of Tammo, caused by reactions by people active in social media. At this point in time, the steep rise, and the high level of violent expressions indicate that physical manifestation related to the killing of Tammo is likely. We call it a crowd induced event; a process sparked by a real-world event, and then fueled by an on-line crowd in such a way that increases the possibility of a physical reaction to the initial event.  After the attack on the funeral party, the levels of violent chatter increased even more.

Image 1: Violent chatter in Arabic social media with respect to Syria for the weekend when Kurdish opposition politician Tammo was gunned down.

Ethersource facilitates the verification of a signal by allowing the operator to inspect the individual documents contributing toit. Image 2, below, shows three screenshots representing some of the sources underlying the signal on Friday, October 7, and Saturday, October 8. The translations from Arabic to English was made using Google Translate.

Image 2: Screenshots of some of the sources contributing to the on-line violent expressions. The translations were made with Google Translate.

To sum up: By using Ethersource, we are able to aggregate the attitudes expressed in on-line media, as they are emitted, with respect to a given entity, in a given language, thus constructing a view of attitudes over time. The view facilitates the identification of time periods in which on-line activity warrants our attention. Ethersource, then, provides access to the documents contributing to the aggregated attitudes in the time period under scrutiny.

So, with Ethersource, we can follow any target with respect to any attitude in any language. On top of that, Ethersource continuously learns from the language it is exposed to.


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