Mathematical models could help track terrorists

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Washington, Dec 13 (ANI): News and gossip these days spread like wildfire, thanks to the Internet and online social networks (OSNs). But one researcher believes that a right mathematical model could help spot when and where a story starts, then watch as it skips across the Internet.

According to the researcher, one day, similar models could even detect and track terrorist cells within OSNs.

Anthony Bonato, an associate professor in Ryerson's Department of Mathematics, has created models to explain the complex connections behind online communities.

His work holds great promise in three disparate areas: following online gossip and news, extending the reach of advertising by identifying and targeting intended audiences and, most importantly, finding terrorists.

Currently, it is extremely difficult to spot terrorist cells within OSNs. However, by applying the appropriate theorems, the evolution of those groups could one day be accurately detected and tracked.

Networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have quickly become communication juggernauts, providing a vast and unprecedented record of social interactions. But they've left mathematicians struggling to keep up.

First and foremost, it is a challenge for researchers to visually convey the intricate systems that make up OSNs.

"In a social network, it's hard to define what actually constitutes a community," Bonato explains. "You need to study an OSN's structure of links, but in mathematics there are several ways to tackle the problem and then apply the resulting theorem."

Bonato his research team's process of discovery involves the use of anonymous data from social networking websites such as LiveJournal and Flickr.

Vertices are identified with people and edges are shown to correspond with some kind of social interaction, such as friendship.

Patterns found in the data then point to new models posed in the language of graph theory, which is an active branch of modern mathematics.

Later this month, Bonato will present his research at the International Conference on Mathematical and Computational Models in India. (ANI)

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