A Department of Homeland Security Emeritus Center of Excellence led by the University of Maryland

A consortium of researchers dedicated to improving the understanding of the human causes and consequences of terrorism

Computational Social Science: Understanding Terrorist Attacks on Twitter

Computational Social Science: Understanding Terrorist Attacks on Twitter


Reported terrorist attacks increased dramatically over the last decade or so, from just under 3,000 per year in 2001 to nearly 17,000 in 2014, amplifying the number of people subjected to the effects of terrorist attacks nearly six-fold over the last decade.

At the same time, the introduction, popularity, and low cost of social media have caused many researchers to rethink the data they use to analyze terrorist attacks, and methods chosen to analyze that data, giving prominence to the emerging field of computational social science.

Hence, Twitter and other social platforms have become important communication channels during crises caused by terrorist attacks. While research into crisis informatics and social media is growing, the variation in Internet penetration and social media usage in countries where terrorist attacks take place complicates analysis of these specific events.

As a result, the findings on how social media users respond to these events on popular platforms like Twitter is not generalizable, but does give researchers a different, complementary, insight along with other findings, into the impact terrorist attacks may have. In our research, we address how social media can give insight into public response to terrorist attacks.

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Full Citation: 

McGrath, Erin C. and Cody Buntain. 2016. "Computational Social Science: Understanding Terrorist Attacks on Twitter." START (July). https://www.start.umd.edu/news/computational-social-science-understanding-terrorist-attacks-twitter

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