Can YouTube video traffic predict the next ISIS attack?
Data analysis of online content can help make predictions about upcoming geopolitical events Reuters

Since the advent of YouTube, video viewership has skyrocketed. People can now watch videos anytime thanks to smartphones and high-speed internet connectivity. But is there a link between the content people view on YouTube and the activity they engage in later? A data analytics company has discovered just such a correlation.

According to Predata, a predictive analytics company, there appears to be a close link between online content and upcoming real-life events – a phenomenon that has led them to make predictions about possible Islamic State (Isis) attacks based on YouTube traffic spikes on specific videos.

Predata noted that a particular video on YouTube titled "Black Flags of Islam and Imam Mahdi" in December 2015 saw a huge traffic spike and a little more than a week later, a Bangladeshi mosque was destroyed in an Isis suicide bombing attack, according to a report by Defense One.

The company's executive, Scott T Crino, said: "It gets them psyched up. So, often there's a big spike in that particular [YouTube video], prior to an event occurring." He equated the video with how weight lifters pump themselves up by listening to AC/DC before lifting.

Predata specialises in identifying and isolating upcoming geopolitical events by analysing online content like YouTube videos and Wikipedia posts. It then measures interest surrounding a particular topic and analyses it further to make predictions on upcoming possible terror attacks.

The company pointed out the Wikipedia edits can also be analysed to make predictions about upcoming unrest. "Things like point of view are not allowed on Wikipedia, and so someone monitoring will come in and say, 'No, not allowed,'" Crino said. "That will keep going back and forth. Often, the person that's editing the page will be trying to create what they think is the new normal."

The far reaching effects of social media have fostered new interest in data analysis. Private and government security agencies are racing to invest in companies like Predata, which predict geopolitical unrest based on social media and internet posts analysis. The CIA's venture capital arm recently invested data mining companies, in efforts to better arm themselves with the ability to counter terror attacks. According to reports, Predeta will also be used by a few within the Pentagon and the US State Department on a trial basis starting May.