back to article Has science gone too far, part 97: Boffins craft code to find protesters on social networks, rate them on their violence

Mining social networks for every scrap of information about our online lives is now common practice for marketers, academics, government agencies, and so on. Text in tweets, blogs and other posts is valuable because it's searchable, analyzable, and not terribly costly to crawl, fetch or store. But ongoing computer vision …

  1. harmjschoonhoven


    He suggested protest organizers might use this sort of technology to watch for emerging violence in order to defuse tensions, because violent movements tend to receive less support than non-violent ones.

    We showed Omdat Mijn Fiets Daar Stond (Because my bike was parked there) until the box "The Amsterdam Police force used excessive violence against innocent bystanders" was ticked.

  2. Adrian 4 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    "But when you actually see a photograph with people shot and bleeding, you know it is violent."

    You know *someone* has been violent. Not necessarily the protestors.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As at Maidan 2014

      When apparently protesters and police were shot simultaneously by a sniper team positioned on a convenient rooftop (or rooftops).

  3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    In other news, Timmy McVeigh was not found on a single protest image

    And no mention of a few undercover FBI operators who didn't think their right-wing incitement operation would seriously backfire was ever made either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In other news, Timmy McVeigh was not found on a single protest image

      My exact thought.

      a few undercover FBI operators who didn't think their right-wing incitement

      As the guy responsible for the security of one of the student protests in Eastern Europe more than 20 years ago I had to deal with that first hand. 50%+ of the "violent protesters" were on the state or opposing political party payroll and were seeded in order to provoke a "proportionate" response from the state and/or ensure that we had bad PR. They "pretended to be on our side" only as much as needed to join the protest so they can do what they have been paid for.

      That did not work as expected. They found it difficult to be violent protesters after our own security detail (which they were not yet aware of) counted the steps on the rear staircase with their behinds. From the third floor to the ground floor. Several times.

  4. Mark 85 Silver badge

    "Our paper will enable fair and objective reporting of protest events," Joo explained.

    Yeah... like the media will actually want to be objective? Those days are long gone.

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      When you can make a profit from being objective, the media will do so, but as long as you can get more readers/viewers from sensationalising stuff, that's exactly what they will do.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Yeah, but they'd be ABLE to be fair and objective if they wished to.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real threat to civilization

    Activists / Protestors... Investigative-journalists... Whistleblowers etc etc -VERSUS- the perfect-order-of-controlled-government: Don't they know the evil that they spread, the unhappiness that they bring??? In a word: Splitters!

  6. Ralph the Wonder Llama

    "The important feature of our method is objectivity"

    Bullshit. Fallacious bullshit at that.

    1. Calimero

      Re: "The important feature of our method is objectivity"

      give them a chance, man - don't get mad, use this:

      Shapiro, Stuart C. (1992). Artificial Intelligence In Stuart C. Shapiro (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Artificial Intelligence (Second Edition, pp. 54–57). New York: John Wiley. (Section 4 is on "AI-Complete Tasks".)

  7. Florida1920
    Big Brother

    The Minority Report

    Somewhere, the ghost of Philip K. Dick is saying, "I warned you!" Only, instead of precogs, we have algorithms. If algorithms are ever allowed to stand for probable cause, we are well and truly screwed.

    1. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: The Minority Report

      The Minority Report TV series was done far better with an AI in Person Of Interest.

      But who will be our Hoodmaker?

    2. Tikimon

      Re: The Minority Report

      "If algorithms are ever allowed to stand for probable cause, we are well and truly screwed."

      Are you kidding? Lesser things than that have been used to assume guilt and go straight to conviction for ages. Here in the US, merely owning a lockpick tool (if not a licensed locksmith) used to send you to prison. Only a burglar would have those, so having one means you're going to break into somewhere, right? That one was finally overturned in most places.

      Cops are not very good at solving crimes or catching criminals. They love no-brainer If-Then presumptive guilt laws, because they can jail people without having to actually catch or prove a crime. So YOU BET that algorithms are the future of Sending People To Jail (notice I didn't say Justice).

  8. Blotto Silver badge

    What would it make of a bunch of football fans walking up the street to the match chanting?

    Or a street carnival?

    How about a hard thrash metal concert or a rave with arms flailing or punks or just strictly come dancing with contestants being flung around with an audience clapping?

    Sounds great in the context they've explained, but I doubt it'll work in the real world where peaceful activities can look very much like violence when the context is taken away.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      What would it make of a bunch of fans...?

      "Evidence, citizen. It would make evidence."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      What would it make of a wedding in almost any hot country with brown people, where rifles and machine guns are prolifically discharged out of sheer glee?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Or

        where rifles and machine guns are prolifically discharged out of sheer glee?"

        Or certain warm parts of the USA too.

  9. Christian Berger

    I wonder if that distinguishes between...

    property damage and violence. At least in according to German law, violence can only happen against people...

    Or to quote the words of German satirical author "Mark-Uwe Kling", "Yes, there is a big difference, because the radical right is burning aliens, while the radical left is burning cars... which is WORSE, because it could have been MINE. I don't own any aliens."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I wonder if that distinguishes between...

      Can we not just say they're both twats and give them both a good kicking?

  10. Tikimon

    ANY big sporting Win...

    Ever seen devoted fans when their team wins a big game? There's screaming and jumping up and down, people pounding on each other, throwing things, small groups racing around... looks a lot like a riot.

  11. Calimero


    yet another problem which we fail to acknowledge that it is AI-complete, thus it has no solution. Oh how I wish I could have some humor saying this! Sorry to be so coring!

  12. Calimero

    Just created the [mythic] algorithm for the new EEG ....

    that will read thoughts. gonna try it on my neighbor first, and conduct a statistical study of the "do unto others ..." then will sold it to tech giants and collect the IPO ... and the alarm clock just ... nah! there is no more clock...

  13. Stevie


    "Our paper will enable fair and objective reporting of protest events"

    But that's not what it will end up enabling, you stupid buggers.

    Meet RICO act 2.0 - all the good intentions of the original but with twice the number of roads to hot places smelling of sulphur.

  14. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Money would be better spent...

    ...on methods of quenching the mood, not recording a situation after it has gone critical. There comes a point where people do things that are totally out of character.

    Anyone can cause violence, given the seed circumstances. Not defending him in any way, but there was the student that threw a fire extinguisher off the top of The Millbank tower in London during the tuition fees protests. Many others have lived to regret their actions during those and other disturbances.

    I think Jim Morrison of The Doors did research and experimented into how to build the audience at a gig into such a frenzy that they became uncontrollable. This is where Trump should be considered to be exceedingly dangerous when talking into a microphone, and he knows he has that power.

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