Pirate Media

As the Maritime Security Review’s Editor-in-Chief has been warning for a long time now, Somali pirates make sophisticated use of social media tools and environments. Members of Somali pirate groups regularly create ‘legends’ – online profiles that allow them to join LinkedIn and Facebook groups – with the objective of gathering useful information. Beware of what you post!

This article from CNN describes how shipping companies may have found a new way to fight piracy, by studying social media such as Facebook and Twitter companies are increasing their understanding of how the pirate groups operate.

Somali pirates tracked through Twitter

Shipping companies use social networks to fight piracy

By Diego Laje CNN

(CNN) – Shipping companies may have found a new tool to fight piracy: It turns out, pirates like to tweet.

Not only that, Somali-based pirates blog and are on Facebook, security experts say. And it is through social media that shipping companies are increasing their understanding of how they operate.

“Somalia is a very sophisticated economy, it has one of the best mobile phone communication systems in the world,” said Jessica Lincoln, director of intelligence at Rubicon Resolution, a risk consultancy.

Lincoln follows pirates’ activities using what she describes as “normal” web tools. She gathers whatever individuals and organizations like al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate Al-Shabaab post online about attacks. The insurgent organization runs a Twitter account where it publicizes its activities. The Al-Shabaab Twitter account has been a part of the debate over whether terrorist organizations should be allowed to use Twitter.

Twitter does not take responsibility for the accuracy and appropriateness of user content in its terms of service.

Another source for her is the Kenyan army, which Lincoln describes as fully engaged in online exchanges with Al-Shabaab.

Fertile territory for Al-Shabaab in chaos of Somalia

Other organizations, like the International Maritime Organization, document pirate attacks and tweet about them.

While, for example, Al-Shabaab may claim an attack was carried out, Lincoln will confirm this claim with other online sources, like the Kenyan army or the IMO.

Lincoln has put together data from social media, mainstream media, academics, governmental organizations, and NGOs to create a virtual representation of the social networking web of pirates in Somalia. Her work — aggregated from online sources — has drawn the interest of shippers and government intelligence agencies.

Her work was on display at a recent shipping conference in Hong Kong, where more than half the conference dealt with risks and crises in this field, suggesting the industry’s growing concern with violence and piracy.

But the same weakness Lincoln exploits can favor criminals. Shipping companies, like all listed enterprises, are required to …………[access full article]

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