Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Repent be4 its two laight

It probably won't surprise you to learn that the gummint is patrolling the Cyberweb looking for those pesky terrorists. What may well surprise you is that the techniques they're using could catch you in the trap, should you happen to have an unusual writing stylee.

According to the National Science Foundation, the AI lab at the University of Arizona has created a thing called, nerdily enough, Dark Web. The job of the project is to scour the Interblogs looking for terrorist messages.

All well and good, but what about all the messages those clever devils are posting on sites other than And what if they're posting anonymously?

No problem. Take a look:

One of the tools developed by Dark Web is a technique called Writeprint, which automatically extracts thousands of multilingual, structural, and semantic features to determine who is creating 'anonymous' content online. Writeprint can look at a posting on an online bulletin board, for example, and compare it with writings found elsewhere on the Internet. By analyzing these certain features, it can determine with more than 95 percent accuracy if the author has produced other content in the past. The system can then alert analysts when the same author produces new content, as well as where on the Internet the content is being copied, linked to or discussed.
In other words, the sort of textual analysis that's so far been unable to prove conclusively whether the plays of Shakespeare were written by Francis Bacon or Kit Marlowe is now to be rolled out to foil the terrorists and their dastardly plans.

And how this affects you is simple: what if, without knowing it, you have the word-stylings of some known terrorist? What if your foibles happen to coincide with the foibles of some warrior of Allah -- like an over-fondness for the word foibles, for example? You're in trouble then, aren't you? And who do you think is going to save you then? So when the door crashes in at four in the morning, and a SWAT team hustles you into a van, a straitjacket and a set of noise-cancelling headphones, maybe then you'll get out of the habit of using obviously three times in one paragraph, spelling surprise suprise, and constantly confusing your for you're.

Don't say you haven't been warned.

* the title of this post is my attempt to adopt a distinctive and not at all jihadi-like word-pattern. Though on reflection I may now risk being hauled off to Gitmo for being Prince.