Social Media Intelligence (SMI or SOCMINT) is processed information, sourced from online social platforms and applications that facilitate and enable the collecting, monitoring, and analysis of up-to-date online sentiment and social commentary.  The rich and varied information available from social platforms may be live or historical, opinion or fact, text or multi-media, proprietary or crowd-sourced; depending on the data provided by each source, and an investigator’s ability to cross-reference the data across platforms and tools, a comprehensive profile of an individual, location, or event can often be built quickly and accurately.

To recognize, collect, and leverage the value of social platform-sourced information, research and investigative professionals must fully understand the limitations, restrictions, and legal implications of obtaining, and utilizing, such information in a manner that user privacy expectations, license agreements, and other legal limitations are not violated.

Social Media Intelligence & Investigation will introduce research and investigative professionals to a variety of essential tools and techniques necessary to locate, collect, and utilize social platform-sourced information, and introduce investigators to the considerations and implications of leveraging this type of information safely and appropriately.

Module 1

Prior to exploring individual social media platforms, this first module will introduce students to essential search and OSINT techniques that will be used throughout the course.  Most importantly, students will be introduced to the considerations and implications of leveraging intelligence from social media platforms safely and legally.

  • Effective cross platform search techniques and specialized queries
  • Legislation, case law, and policy considerations in the use of social media evidence and the creation of investigator accounts
  • Leveraging publicly available court records to assist in identifying social media accounts
  • Best tools and practices for documenting social platform-sourced content
  • Investigating images
  • Techniques for creating and maintaining “dummy accounts”

Module 2

This second module will introduce students to platform-specific tools and techniques necessary for locating, collecting, and utilizing social platform-sourced information.  The techniques and considerations introduced in the first module will be revisited throughout Module 2 as students explore a variety of social platforms.

Facebook:

  • Obtaining extended information from personal and business profiles
  • Accessing networks between individuals, as well as business associates
  • Exploring live videos, groups, events, and pages
  • Facebook Marketplace and investigative implications
  • Techniques for capturing Facebook content for court disclosure
  • Personal privacy considerations

Twitter:

  • Obtaining extended information from personal and business profiles
  • Search techniques and analytics
  • Monitoring live content and communication
  • Geolocating Twitter updates
  • Locating deleted tweets
  • Personal privacy considerations

Instagram:

  • Locating users, accounts, posts, and tags
  • Capturing Instagram “stories” and “highlights”
  • Personal privacy considerations

YouTube:

  • Searching and downloading YouTube videos
  • Exploring user profiles and “channels”
  • Viewing video metadata
  • Personal privacy considerations

Online forums, groups, and blogs:

  • Locating online communities
  • Searching for and analyzing users and shared content

Module 3

The final module of this course will pull together all of the tools and techniques introduced in the first two modules, and will reinforce key concepts students need to always be aware of when gathering social media intelligence.

  • Introduction to geolocation/geofencing tools for real-time updates
  • Monitoring users and locations
  • User profiling and identifying multiple social accounts in use by targets
  • Linking people, places, and things
  • Critically evaluating information from social platforms to determine reliability
  • Final privacy considerations and techniques for protecting our own online information

Case studies and video demonstrations will be incorporated throughout the course to reinforce training concepts and techniques.  Students will also understand privacy considerations in relation to investigative subjects, and for protecting their own online information on the platforms explored in the course.

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