Exploring Gray Web Forums: Analysis and Investigation of Forum-Based Communities in Taiwan
Our society is in a state of transformation toward a “virtual society.” However, due to the nature of anonymity and less observability, internet activities have become more diverse and obscure. As a result, unscrupulous individuals or criminals may exploit the internet as a channel for their illegal activities to avoid the apprehension by law enforcement officials. This paper examines the “Gray Web Forums” in Taiwan. We study their characteristics and develop an analysis framework for assisting investigations on forum communities. Based on the statistical data collected from online forums, we found that the relationship between a posting and its responses is highly correlated to the forum nature. In addition, hot threads extracted based on posting activity and our proposed metric can be used to assist analysts in identifying illegal or inappropriate contents. Furthermore, a member’s role and his/her activities in a virtual community can be identified by member level analysis. In addition, two schemes based on content analysis were also developed to search for illegal information items in gray forums. The experiment results show that hot threads are correlated to illegal information items, but the retrieval effectiveness can be significantly improved by search schemes based on content analysis.
KeywordsForum-based Community Gray Web Forum Forum Analysis & Investigation Crime Lead Discovering Content Analysis
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