Power Law Models Terrorism and Twitter

Power Law and Social MediaI’ve written before about my appreciation for Clay Shirkey and his writings on social media. One concept of his which I particularly love is that social participation online does not form a bell-curve, but a power-curve. That is, the majority of people online participate a tiny bit, or not at all. On Twitter, the top 10% of users account for the 90% of activity. In this week’s edition of Discover Magazine Andrew Curry explains that this distribution of seemingly random relationships can also be used to model terrorism.

That is, that the vast majority of terrorist incidents kill only a few people, while a tiny number kill vast numbers of people. The researchers he interviews have modeled terrorism from Columbia to Iraq and have found similar distributions.

Does this mean that terrorism is an essentially social exercise? As sick as it is to talk about social media and suicide bombers in the same context, it is interesting to consider, as these researchers do, the social inputs such as potential for media coverage and overall message-penetration which effect terrorists’ planning. Creepy, but interesting.

Inspirational Quote:

“Democracy is necessary to peace and to undermining the forces of terrorism.”–Benazir Bhutto

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