Information control and terrorism: Tracking the Mumbai terrorist attack through twitter


This paper analyzes the role of situational information as an antecedent of terrorists’ opportunistic decision making in the volatile and extreme environment of the Mumbai terrorist attack. We especially focus on how Mumbai terrorists monitored and utilized situational information to mount attacks against civilians. Situational information which was broadcast through live media and Twitter contributed to the terrorists’ decision making process and, as a result, increased the effectiveness of hand-held weapons to accomplish their terrorist goal. By utilizing a framework drawn from Situation Awareness (SA) theory, this paper aims to (1) analyze the content of Twitter postings of the Mumbai terror incident, (2) expose the vulnerabilities of Twitter as a participatory emergency reporting system in the terrorism context, and (3), based on the content analysis of Twitter postings, we suggest a conceptual framework for analyzing information control in the context of terrorism.

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    A documentary of Mumbai terror shows how remote handlers in Pakistan controlled field attackers in Mumbai through satellite phone by monitoring live TV. The video is available at: (Last accessed November 12th, 2009).

  2. 2.

    The URL is a link to Google map which indicates Nariman House under terrorist attack.

  3. 3.

    ATS stands for Anti-Terror Squad


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This research has been supported by NSF under grant 0926371 and IIS-0926376 and 0929775. The usual disclaimer applies. We thank Shruti Jain and Himanshu Maheshwari, for help with the content analysis.

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Correspondence to Onook Oh.

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Oh, O., Agrawal, M. & Rao, H.R. Information control and terrorism: Tracking the Mumbai terrorist attack through twitter. Inf Syst Front 13, 33–43 (2011).

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  • Mumbai terrorist attack
  • Twitter
  • Information control
  • Situation awareness