Propaganda War

Shooting down a passenger jet has exposed some good old-fashioned Soviet-style propaganda. It’s not as good as some of Putin’s efforts, but it’s interesting to watch.

The Wayback Machine has captured some very interesting evidence that Russian-backed terrorists shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. In a post by Igor Girkin on Vkontakte, Russia’s Facebook clone, the Ukrainian terrorist leader who is also known as Strelkov, claimed his forces downed what he thought was a Ukrainian military transport plane.

The Russian-backed terrorist claims he shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was caught by the Wayback Machine and publicized on their Twitter account, @InternetArchive ( See The Christian Science Monitor article that translates the content and provides a timeline of the attempts by the terrorists to hide this and blame the Ukraine government.

Meanwhile over at Wikipedia, the Twitter account @RuGovEdits monitors Wikipedia edits by the Russian government. It reveals Russia’s efforts to shift the blame to the Ukrainian government. Putin’s office and Russian media outlets made multiple edits to the page for the murder of the MH17 passengers to blame the “Ukrainian military”. @RuGovEdits should be trustworthy as the Wiki-twitterbot code is widely available on Github.

How to Use Boolean to Improve Social Media Monitoring

Twitter and Boolean Searching

Twitter has a robust search facility  that includes Boolean search operators. Twitter Support provides the following table of search operators.

Twitter defaults to the AND operator when you include search terms to the search statement. Don’t forget to use the -sign for NOT to eliminate search terms and OR to broaden the search. To get the results that you really want, you can filter the search results using the selections on the left side of the results page or you can start your search on the Advanced search page. Always search for variations of hashtags, spellings, and sentiment words in order to capture the largest number of tweets possible.

Social Search — The Event Horizon

Events create a lot of social media chatter. Within this chatter or noise, the Investigator must find useful data. If the origin of the investigation is an event at a particular location, then searching for chatter that is related to the location may move the investigation forward.

GeoTagging is the process of adding geographical identification metadata to social media messages and other content such as images. Searching by the location usually entails entering the Latitude and Longitude of the location.

Twitter Geotags

Twitter allows users to include geotags with their tweets. Some third-party developers are using this feature. For example, Twellowhood, Twitter Local, and Twitter Nano.

Twitter Nano

Twitter Nano allows me to improve the signal-to-noise ratio when the starting point is an event or situation that I can identify with Latitude and Longitude. This will allow the Investigator to identify the people who have an interest or involvement in the event under investigation.

Of course, this doesn’t work if the user-of-interest hasn’t enabled geotagging. However, those with geotagging enabled often identify others who don’t have it enabled.

How To Hide From Twitter

Lately, I have been working with clients who face serious security threats. Some of these people are surprised by what can be learned about them from internet searches. Removing this information is a challenge, especially from social media sites like Twitter.

Twitter presents an interesting challenge. Once you publish a Tweet, a lot of other websites take your Tweet and reproduce it in a database. Topsy, Snap Bird, the Library of Congress, and many others get in on the act.

Of course, you can delete your Twitter account, but your Tweets will live on in a third party database.

The best solution that I have found is to remove all the Tweets from your account rather than deleting the account itself. When some third party site comes to collect your tweets to update their database, they also overwrite or delete your old Tweets and replace them with nothing matching the empty Twitter profile.

Doing this also prevents some malicious adversary from waiting thirty days then opening a new account using your deleted Twitter account name. Of course, keeping the account also allows you to start using it for some subtle disinformation.

If your Twitter account has thousands of Tweets like mine does, then you need an automated deletion service.

Twit Wipe fits the bill. Provide the service with your Twitter password and set it lose. Once Twit Wipe has done its job, change the Twitter password.

After thirty days, you should start searching for the deleted Tweets to identify any sites that still have them. If they still exist on some sites after sixty days, then consider requesting their removal.

Snap Bird

If you want to see all the Tweets from a particular Twitter account, then you are out of luck if you don’t know about Snap Bird. Twitter allows you to only search or see about a week’s worth of Tweets.

Snap Bird allows you to survey all the Tweets for a particular user if you select “Someone’s timeline” as the type of search.

This is extremely useful when trying to assess the nature of the person behind the Twitter account. Sometimes, you will find that the account is really just a bot that retweets what it finds. Sometimes, you find the account is owned by somebody with an axe to grind. Sometimes, you find the person behind the account is an activist of some type. You learn these things from reviewing all the tweets to see the general theme of the account.

The point is, you won’t know what you’re dealing with unless you can see all the Tweets coming from that account and Snap Bird allows you to do that.


Getting to Know the Neighbourhood — Twitter Via RSS

To monitor someone’s Tweets, but not actually publicly follow the Twitter account, use Twitter to RSS. This service allows you to enter the name of a public Twitter account and create an RSS feed for popular RSS readers like Google Reader.

This won’t work if the account owner selected the Protect my tweets box in the account settings.

Local News on Twitter

If you provide a location in your Twitter profile settings, then following @topix_local will get you tweets about the location.  To stop getting alerts, simply stop following @topix_local.  This needs a city name in your profile settings to be effective so that it picks-up the hashtag (#city).

UPDATE: You won’t get very many Tweets using @topix_local compared to using TweetDeck and creating a column for #City.  But of course, in TweetDeck, you will get everything with the city hashtag, whether it’s news or not.

Getting to Know the Neighbourhood – Tracking Tweets

Google, Bing, & Twitter

Google and Bing Social have indexed tweets since 2009. You may also install greasemonkey and a script to put Twitter results on your Google search results page.

Twitter & RSS

Go to Twitter Search, run a search query, click the “Feed for this query” link next to the orange RSS button, and paste the URL into Google Reader. All tweets  for your search will be stored for you.

The “Advanced Search” allows you to set more specific parameters for your search. You can even specify whether you want to see positive or negative tweets, or tweets that ask a question.

Twitter Searching

This Twitter thing has become a necessity to the connected. It is also an evolving search problem for Investigators.

Searching Twitter isn’t as straightforward as I would like. Content disappears in a short time in many search facilities and search results differ depending on which search facility you use.

18 Useful Twitter-related Sites

Here are 18 Twitter-related sites that I have found useful:

Read more

How Tweet It Is!

The Library of Congress announced  they acquired the entire archive of public Twitter activity since its inception in March 2006.  Addition of new data to the archive will create a delay of several weeks between its addition and its availability to the public.

Google has also created  way to revisit tweets related to historic events called Google Replay. It lets you relive a real time search from specific moments in time, but Google Replay  only goes back a few months now, but it will eventually reach back to the very first Tweets.


TweetMeme is a service which aggregates links on Twitter to determine which links are most popular. TweetMeme categorises these links into Categories, Subcategories and Channels, making it easy to filter out the noise to find what you’re interested in.

We make it easy for you to subscribe to each category and the most popular through  their RSS feeds and Twitter accounts.

The thing that interests me most is the search facility that works quite well, especially for finding Tweets that include company names.

Twitter Lists

Twitter lists are becoming an interesting crowd sourcing phenomenon. Twitter Lists is becoming a favorite tool for Twitter. The lists identify specific individuals in vertical fields.

To make a list, sign in to your Twitter account and click on navigation-bar item that reads “New Lists”. A pop-up window asks you to name your new list and if you want it to be public or not. When you make your own list be careful; a public list may reveal too much about what you are interested in.

You should first look for the list you want to create, somebody has probably already created it, but at the moment there isn’t a good way to find lists. Go to Twitter’s people search page and do a search for your list topic and rummage around to find accounts to add to your list. Eventually these lists will be useful once they are easier to find and search.

Listorious has compiled a list of lists of sorts but it isn’t a true search engine. This site and the Twitter people search seem to be the best tools to use when dealing with Twitter Lists.