Handbook of Computational Approaches to Counterterrorism

pp 181-199


Forecasting Group-Level Actions Using Similarity Measures

  • Gerardo I. SimariAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, University of Oxford Email author 
  • , Damon EarpAffiliated withUniversity of Maryland Institute for Advanced Computer Studies (UMIACS), University of Maryland College Park
  • , Maria Vanina MartinezAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, University of Oxford
  • , Amy SlivaAffiliated withCollege of Computer and Information Science, Northeastern University
  • , V. S. SubrahmanianAffiliated withDepartment of Computer Science, University of Maryland College Park

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In real-world settings, and in particular in counterterrorism efforts, there is a constant need for a given reasoning agent to have the means by which to “stay ahead” of certain other agents, such as organizations or individuals who may carry out actions against its interests. In this work, we focus on one such way in which a reasoning agent can do this: forecasting group-level actions. This ability is indeed a useful one to have, and one that is definitely attainable if the right kind of data is available. For example, consider the Minorities at Risk Organizational Behavior (MAROB) dataset [4, 19]. This data tracks the behavior for 118 ethnopolitical organizations in the Middle East and Asia Pacific on a yearly basis from 1980 to 2004. For each year, values have been gathered for about 175 measurable variables for each group in the sample. These variables include strategic conditions such as the tendency to commit bombings and armed attacks, as well as background information about the type of leadership, whether the group is involved in cross border violence, etc. Only a subset—around 43—of the approximately 175 attributes in the data represent strategic actions taken by the group, while the others represent variables relating to the environment or context in which the group functions. This context includes variables about the degree of military and financial support the group gets from foreign nations or the ethnic diaspora, the degree of state government repression and persecution against the group, and so forth. It also includes variables about the structure of the group and how factionalized it may or may not be, the level of violence and protests in which the group engages, and the amount of participation in the political process.