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On July 20, 2023, a free-roaming wild animal was spotted in Kleinmachnow, a suburb of Berlin. A video has been shared in a chat group and then uploaded to Twitter. Police received an emergency call and moved out to find the animal. According to an initial assessment of the video, the wild animal was a lioness. As a result, a very elaborate and costly search was conducted. Hundreds of police units were deployed, helicopters, drones and thermal imaging cameras were used. The search for the wild animal lasted 37 hours and attracted worldwide attention. According to New York Times others had fun with the chaos, and memes abounded: >The Twitter page for Deutsche Bahn, the national German railway operator, tweeted a helpful reminder that while house cats and smaller pets did not need their own tickets, larger pets, “other than companion lions,” required their own train passes.> In the end, it turned out that the animal was a wild boar. +
The perpetrator ended up being shot by Vienna police. He was identified and was already known to the authorities as a sympathizer of the Islamist terrorist militia Islamic State. +
The entire attack took place over a distance of 1.7 kilometers and lasted about five minutes. Zigzagging along the seafront, the perpetrator was able to kill 86 people and injured more than 200 before he was finally killed in a shootout with two national police officers. On 15 July, François Molins, the prosecutor for the Public Ministry, officially stated that the attack bore the hallmarks of jihadist terrorism. Later investigations revealed that the attacker, a 31-year-old man of Tunisian nationality with a French residency permit, was known to French authorities only for threatening behavior and petty crimes and became radicalized only shortly before the attack. Yet, he is believed to have planned the attack for several months and to have had help from accomplices. Six suspects were later charged with "criminal terrorist conspiracy", three of whom also charged for complicity in murder, three further suspects were charged for supplying the perpetrator with illegal weapons. The French government declared three days of national mourning starting on 16 July and since the attack was declared an act of terrorism, the French President François Hollande announced an extension of the state of emergency for additional three months (which had been declared following the attacks in Paris in November 2015), later, France extended the state of emergency until 26 January 2017. Moreover, government officials called for "patriotic citizens" to join the reserve forces to boost the French security and add around 12,000 police reservists to the 120,000-person force . +
From January 2020, the coronavirus started to spread in Italy and from March 2020, the ban on leaving and moving around the area was imposed. From then on, most activities were stopped and shops were closed (only the supermarket, the grocery shop and the main shops could stay open). This led to a number of problems, mainly because it took a couple of months for most activities and shops to reopen and start operating again, leading to major economic problems. As a result of lifting the ban, many people became infected with the virus, which led to an overload in hospitals. Therefore, many patients could not be cared for causing a high death-rate. To support people in need of urgent help, a group of computer technicians founded this platform. +
On the evening of 17 August 2017, a van was deliberately crashed with high speed into the Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona. 14 people were killed and more than 100 were injured. In the resulting confusion, the 22-years-old perpetrator was able to escape the scene on foot. During his further escape, he hijacked another vehicle and stabbed the driver to death. A few kilometers from Barcelona, he left the car with the dead body. Immediately, all public events in Barcelona were cancelled and Mossos d'Esquadra, the police force of Catalonia, launched ‘Operation Cage’ to locate the perpetrator. On 21 August, the police received tips about his whereabouts and were able to locate and shoot him. Around 1am on August 18th, eight hours after the first assault, another car was crashed into pedestrians in Cambrils, 100 km southwest of Barcelona. The five individuals from inside the car got out wearing fake suicide vests and started to attack bystanders with knives, stabbing one woman to death. Four of the attackers were immediately shot dead by the arriving police, the fifth managed to flee but succumbed to his injuries several hours later. Both attacks were later linked to an Islamist cell with headquarters in Alcanar. This building was destroyed in an explosion a day prior to the Barcelona attack, killing two members of the cell, including a 40-year-old imam who is also thought to be the mastermind behind the other attacks. +
The #unserWasser Crowdscience project by ARD and SWR (Public service television channels in Germany) investigates the impact of drought on Germany's water bodies. Since March 2022, it has collected nearly 2,400 public observations on drying rivers, lakes, and streams. The data is mapped and analyzed by experts to understand the extent of drought conditions. The initiative highlights that 60% of rivers globally are at least temporarily dry, a condition also affecting Germany. Collected data is displayed on an interactive map until September 2022, allowing citizens to report on depleting water bodies. +
On 7 April 2017, at about 14:53 local time, a hijacked truck was deliberately driven into crowds along Drottninggatan in central Stockholm before being crashed into a department store. Five people were killed, 14 others were seriously injured. This was considered to be the first major terrorist attack of its kind in Sweden. The perpetrator, a 39-year-old rejected asylum seeker from Uzbekistan with alleged affiliations to the Islamic State, was apprehended several hours later. In 2018 he was convicted of murder and terrorist crimes and was sentenced to life in prison and deportation to Uzbekistan, if released. In response to the attack, the Stockholm authorities had put the city center in lockdown immediately: the Parliament House and the metro system were shut down. Stockholm Central Station was evacuated and all trains to and from Stockholm were put on hold until the evening hours. +
Dry grass, low vegetation, bushes, small trees were on fire. Alarm grade was the V, which is the highest in Hungary. 25 vehicles and more than 100 firefighters were on duty. First the heat and then the stormy wind hindered the intervention. The command was divided due to the size of the area and the terrain. +
In August 2016, the centre of Italy was hit by a major earthquake of magnitude 6.0, which caused great damage and claimed many victims: many houses, buildings and structures collapsed, one of the hospitals was also damaged and people were left homeless. There were about 300 victims and about 400 injured. In the first moments of the emergency, nobody knew what kind of disaster it was. Then, a flood of information arrived on various platforms and without verification. Thus, a group of computer technicians, experts in civic hacking, decided to create the platform where the information could be verified on a voluntary basis. Many people from Italy were engaged to ensure the platform could work effectively. People consulting the platform could see who and how to help or get help. The efficiency of the platform was ensured by the participation of ActionAid, an international NGO involved in the response phase. +
In January 2010, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, resulting in widespread destruction and a high death toll of over 230,000 people. The international community swiftly responded by initiating search and rescue missions and providing emergency aid. The existing disaster-response system employed by relief organizations in Haiti primarily focused on facilitating information sharing among international teams of responders. However, this system had limitations in aggregating and prioritizing data from external sources, which made it challenging to harness valuable information from the local Haitian community. To address this gap, Ushahidi, an open-source crisis-mapping software originally developed and used in Kenya, played a crucial role. It provided a platform to collect, organize, and disseminate critical information directly from Haitians. Social media platforms such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook, as well as text messages sent via mobile phones, became channels through which information was gathered. Volunteers from around the world formed an international group that received reports about trapped individuals, medical emergencies, and specific needs like food, water, and shelter. These reports were promptly plotted on real-time maps, accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. On-the-ground responders began utilizing this information to determine the most effective allocation of resources, deciding where and when to direct aid efforts. However, the significant challenge emerged in verifying and prioritizing the large influx of reports. Nevertheless, ad hoc solutions were found, involving manual monitoring and sorting of information to ensure the most urgent needs were addressed. +
The project "Volunteers for Education" responds to the educational crisis caused by Covid-19 pandemic to support learning and motivation of children aged 9-17. The project provides the support of an adequately trained volunteer matched with one or more children for online study accompaniment. The project manages to provide children with personalized study support exploiting the potential of online support. Collaboration with schools is the cornerstone of the project. Volunteers work in a network with families and schools, and their commitment to study support is constantly supervised by a central team of professional educators. Save the Children was able to recruit and train 2,360 volunteers, activate within 1 year approximately 1,600 volunteers and reach 3,100 students. The support has a duration of 25 hours which can be extended if there is a proven need. Each support will have a specific thematic focus, depending on the needs of the minor involved and starting from the indications of the school: humanities, scientific subjects, L2 Italian, foreign languages, preparation for middle school, homework support during the summer. The objectives of the support can be different: strengthening basic skills and motivation to learn or making up for gaps in specific areas. If the child does not have a tablet, this will be insured as part of the project. +
Following the disastrous floods in 2016, the Loiret region in France highlighted the need for a common information system between administrative authorities to manage road traffic and incidents more effectively. The Département du Loiret and Orléans Métropole contracted SME Nextérité to develop a data platform to address this need. The platform serves as a direct data source for two web applications: one for road managers (ViaPro) and one for the general public (ViaFacil). These apps aim to improve road incident information, reduce traffic congestion, and ensure a safer environment for all road users. The European-funded BE-GOOD project (https://www.nweurope.eu/projects/project-search/begood/) supports the development and implementation of these data-driven services in the area of infrastructure and environment. In 2017, a challenge called "Continuity of traffic flow" was initiated to create a real-time information system about traffic conditions using Open Data and crowdsourcing. The aim was to develop innovative solutions like a web platform that provides a common set of data from different road managers to the public and private sectors, and to use multiple channels (such as apps, radio, TV, SMS, and social networks) to reach the maximum number of users. The use of crowdsourced data was encouraged to improve user information and infrastructure management responsiveness. The challenge's goal was to design an effective solution regardless of the technology used, as long as it could provide the required data through an API or other means. +
In 2018, Portugal experienced a fuel crisis caused by a strike by truck drivers protesting against the rising fuel prices. The strike resulted in the disruption of fuel supplies and distribution, leading to shortages and long lines at petrol stations across the country. The crisis lasted for several days and had significant impacts on transportation, commerce, and daily life. The government declared a state of emergency and took measures such as importing fuel and imposing restrictions on fuel purchases to mitigate the effects of the crisis. The strike ended after the government and the striking truck drivers reached a negotiation agreement. VOST Portugal played an important role in providing accurate and up-to-date information to the public on the situation and availability of fuel. VOST Portugal used its online presence to crowdsource information and communicate with the public, keeping them informed and reducing panic and confusion. VOST Portugal also helped to coordinate volunteer efforts and support for those affected by the crisis. By leveraging digital technologies and social media, VOST Portugal played a crucial role in helping the country cope with the effects of the fuel crisis. "Já Não Dá Para Abastecer" (It's No Longer Possible to Refuel) was a crowdsourcing platform developed by VOST Portugal during the 2018 fuel crisis in the country. The platform aimed to provide real-time information on the availability of fuel at petrol stations throughout Portugal. It relied on volunteer contributions and information from the public to update its database. People could use the platform to check for updates on fuel availability near them, and also to contribute information about the situation at petrol stations in their area. This helped to reduce confusion and panic, as well as to provide a more accurate picture of the situation for those affected by the fuel crisis. The platform was widely used by the public during the crisis and demonstrated the potential of crowdsourcing and digital technologies in crisis situations.
The term OSINT is the acronym of ‘Open-Source Intelligence’ and refers to the collection and evaluation of publicly available data for a certain purpose. Originally, the term was associated with the work of secret services. Today, with the ubiquity of (big) open data, OSINT is also applied in a variety of other fields, companies perform OSINT e.g., for the purpose of market research (so-called Business Intelligence). One increasingly relevant subfield of OSINT is SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence). German Law Enforcement had long limited its OSINT endeavors by solely concentrating on organized crime, terrorism, and cybercrime, whereas in the Netherlands OSINT was already integrated into every-day mission control work back in 2012. There, OSINT was applied by so-called ‘intel officers’ in terms of ‘real-time intelligence’ (RTIC) to provide the colleagues out in the streets with as much relevant information as possible for them to perform their duty. Such OSINT-backup becomes particularly relevant when there is only limited time to assess a situation, foresee potential dangers and how events might unfold. Focused research in open-source data can for instance provide valuable information such as - pictures showing the current appearance of a person, - hints on connections to potentially dangerous milieus (e.g., the Rocker scene), - hints on relevant hobbies (long-time boxer, sporting marksman, owner of an attack dog etc.), or - updates on the location and potential escape routes (traffic situation, construction sites etc.). THE PILOT PROJECT 'SENTINEL‘ To investigate if such a targeted collection of additional information would also improve the work of mission control centers in Germany and thus increase the safety of patrol of-ficers and the public, the German Police University launched the pilot project 'SENTINEL - Sicherheit im Einsatz durch Open-Source-Intelligence (OSINT) in Einsatzleitstellen‘ jointly with the local police departments of Dortmund, Osnabrück, and Munich. During a phase of six months within this project (which was funded by the Stüllenberg Foundation from January 2018 until October 2019) intel officers were implemented in the mission control centers of the three cities and should perform OSINT research upon incoming emergency calls. This means, every time an intel officer encounters relevant hints, he or she sets a marker and copies the relevant information into the computer-aided dispatch system, whereupon they will be communicated via messenger, radio, or phone to the officers at (or on the way to) the scene. If necessary, those publicly available data can be combined or checked against database records (e.g., from the INPOL data-base or the firearms registry). RESULTS & AFTERMATH The evaluation of this pilot phase was based on quantitative and qualitative methods and could follow-up on a total of 1282 emergency-call-triggered police operations. It could be documented that in about 80 percent of the operations intel officers were able to come up with additional information and that for 72 percent of the cases this additional knowledge was rated as crucial to actually support the police work of the colleagues at the scene. Most of that information consisted in pictures, hints on communication devices used, and contact persons. Thus, after the ‘SENTINEL’ project was able to affirm the relevance of OSINT to assist every-day police missions, 13 new intel officers were hired in Lower-Saxony alone (to support mission support centers in Hannover, Braunschweig, and Osnabrück on a 24/7 basis). To archive a high degree of specialization and profit from synergy effects, those positions were primarily not filled with police officers but rather with ‘externals’ that could provide a background in communication studies or the like. In 2021 more Intel officers were hired in Lower-Saxony to provide state wide coverage, enabling the mission support centers in Lüneburg, Göttingen and Oldenburg to imple-ment this capacity as well. In Lower Saxony the intel officer unit has access to the Social Media accounts administrat-ed by the public relations (PR) unit. The unit is able to monitor incoming messages and mentions outside of the working hours of the PR unit. Hereby the intel officers are able to monitor this channels on a 24/7 basis, to run a OSINT search about people involved or mentioned on such messages and share relevant information within the mission control center. In the event of a larger scale incident with social media virality, intel officer are also able to scan incoming messages for relevant information where the police has been tagged as an effort of the crowdsourcing community to flag important information. Intel Officers are also able to create messages and posts directed at single users or the community as well in order to ask for assistance (e.g. missing persons) or give guidance in certain situations (e.g. keeping windows and doors closed in the event of a fire). Another aspect of social media in combination with incidents and police investigations is the direct communication of police organisations with the platforms. In this case during the project and afterwards workflows were developed in order to ensure that emergency data requests (EDR) are used adequately in the mission control centers enabling to receive relevant information about users and accounts in a timely maner. By the end of 2021 NRW followed Lower Saxony as well implementing so called GMKC (Gemeinsame Monitoring- und Kommunikationscenter) on every regional mission sup-port center (§4 Behörden). OSINT SOFTWARE The quality and pace with which intel officers can assist police missions are of course to a great deal depending on the software tools they have available. To date, several quite exhaustive lists referencing OSINT tools for various applications ex-ist, such as the ‘Awesome OSINT’ list curated on GitHub (https://github.com/jivoi/awesome-osint) or the ones featured in the ‘Open Source Inelli-gence Tools and Resources Handbook (https://i-intelligence.eu/uploads/public-documents/OSINT_Handbook_June-2018_Final.pdf). The work of German intel officers usually incorporates a great variety of such tools. Yet most mission control centers have developed their own unique workarounds and imple-mented (or developed) different software solutions throughout Germany – some which are kept confidential for tactical or contract reasons, some which are regularly demon-strated publicly. One of the more prominent examples is for instance „hessenDATA“ (in use in the state of Hesse) which among other things can automatically compare search results with inputs from three police databases and internal notification, integrate tele-phone service data, forensic data, and information retrieved from social networks.
Overview: On July 5, 2020, record-breaking rainfall caused extensive damages in Kyushu and Chubu regions (southwest and central regions, Japan). Social media posts requesting rescue and safety confirmation were highlighted by people who had been isolated due to landslides and other damages. Oita Prefecture, one of the regions affected by the disaster, could reply to social media posts from the disaster-stricken areas, using a Twitter-based AI Disaster Risk Management Solution. This system collected messages from residents in risk situations during the disaster. Its use was effective for verifying damage situations and providing appropriate contact information, which was used for multiple rescues. (Ref. 1) HIGHLIGHTED CASE Using the AI solution, officials from Oita Prefecture found a post of a resident who had become isolated after a landslide blocked a road. In one notorious case, residents of a family in the area could not contact the authorities, because utility poles had fallen, and the landline and cellular phone services were out of service. While they managed to get an Internet connection, they posted on Twitter: "Mudslide right behind the evacuation center. Power outage, roads blocked, river flooding, we are isolated. It was too hard to evacuate with a one-and-a-half-year-old and a pregnant woman." (Ref. 2) After Oita Prefecture officials used the AI solution to find the above message successfully, the government immediately used the official Twitter account to send a reply, giving the contact information (phone number) for the disaster headquarters. Then, residents who received the reply informed the prefecture of their family's condition and the current situation in the area. Afterward, the prefecture shared information with the local fire department. In response, fire department officials were dispatched to ensure the safety of those residents. (Ref. 2) As subsequent reports, these residents said, according to local news, "At the time, I had a family member who was seven months pregnant. We also had young children and wanted someone to know what was happening. We wanted someone to find and help us in this difficult and stranded situation. That's how I felt when I posted this". Three months after the disaster, they gave birth safely. The mother said, "I am grateful to the prefectural government for catching our social media postings and connecting us to support." Also, the official from the Oita Prefecture, who used the AI solution to find the above tweet posted by these residents, said, "We in government do not have many opportunities to interact with residents. The social media was effective because it lets us get detailed information from people on the site". (Ref. 2) PAST CASE Not all prefectures and municipalities have resources like the abovementioned AI solution. And even these smart solutions are the result of recent efforts. In the event of heavy rainfall that strike Kyushu region in 2017 (before the adoption of AI solutions), for example, people affected by the disaster can find a way to request rescue by Twitter using the hashtag #救助 (kyujyo, meaning "rescue" in Japanese) if they are unable to make a phone call. Therefore, when trying to find information from #救助, tweets unrelated to rescue requests were lined up, "burying" important information (Ref. 3). After the event occurred in 2017, researchers from the International Research Institute of Disaster Science at Tohoku University (IRIDeS) analyzed 1,058 tweets in which #救助 was used and found that only 2% of the tweets were presumed to have come from the disaster area, while the rest were from outside the disaster area and were not urgent. In addition, when some news media tweeted articles calling for the use of this hashtag, they used #救助 as it is, which caused recipients to retweet the articles to spread them, thus contributing to the "burying" of information. The IRIDeS researchers concluded, "The challenge is to improve the social media manners of people outside the affected areas. Also, the news media should be aware of the magnitude of their influence." News media also emphasized that the hashtag #救助 is likely to be used as a "last recourse" for communication from disaster-stricken areas when telephone service is unavailable. Also, the Rescue-dedicated page on Twitter urges people not to spread the hashtag unnecessarily, but to call emergency services - 119 in Japan (Ref. 3). Ref 1. Article from PR TIMES (Japanese), https://prtimes.jp/main/html/rd/p/000000072.000016808.html 21 Jan. 2021 (accessed 2023/03/28) Ref 2. Article from NHK (Japanese), https://www.nhk.or.jp/ashitanavi/article/10326.html 2 Nov. 2021 (accessed 2023/03/28) Ref 3. Article from Broadcasting Culture Research Institute, NHK (Japanese), https://www.nhk.or.jp/bunken/research/focus/f20170901_3.html , Sep. 2017 (accessed 20023/03/28)
From 1 April to 31 October, the National Meteorological Service (OMSZ) will operate a storm warning service to provide meteorological service for storm warnings on Lake Balaton, Lake Velencei tó and Lake Tisza, while the light signal system of the National Directorate General for Disaster Management of the Ministry of the Interior will provide the storm warning and alert. The smart lights, which have been developed in recent years, will be even more efficient and reliable from this year onwards, as they will now be mounted on special platforms. Thanks to the platforms, which were implemented and built as part of a project by the National Water Directorate and the Central Transdanubian Water Directorate, the power supply of the beacons has been improved, and they can be operated with larger solar panels and expanded battery capacity, so that they can also function properly during longer periods without sunlight. On Lake Fertő tó (Neusiedler See) there is also a system which was cooperated by Austria (Eisenstadt) but at the moment on the Hungarian side there is no light signal posts because of construction work. Currently, the Austrian side is operational. +
On March 6th, 2017, a 19-year-old German from Herne (North Rhine-Westphalia) lured his 9-year-old neighbor into the basement, where he stabbed him brutally 58 times. He shared pictures of his act and the bloody scene via WhatsApp to friends, which were subsequently also circulating via the website 4Chan. Thereupon, users called to alert the police. The perpetrator then fled to a 22-year-old former schoolmate, who threatened to alert the police, whereupon the perpetrator also stabbed him with 62 knife stabs the following day. The perpetrator kept hiding in his schoolmate’s apartment for the next three days but also continued to be present in online fora (posting more pictures, making false or intentionally misleading claims and announcing further murders). This in turn resulted in great fear and insecurity in the area. On the evening of March 9, the murderer finally left the apartment and tuned himself in to the police at a fast-food restaurant. He confessed that he had set his schoolmate’s apartment on fire. While extinguishing the fire, the fire department found the body of the second victim. The crisis communication during this incident was extremely challenging for the local law enforcement team because this was the first time in Germany, such a severe crime was more or less taking place in real-time on the internet over the course of several days. +
Disaster management uses social media platforms to inform the public about upcoming mass meteorological events such as strong winds, rainfalls, thunderstorms, sleets, snowfalls etc. using the alarm map issued by the National Meteorology Service. +
On July 22, 2011, a far-right nationalist attacker launched two terrorist attacks, one in Oslo and another one on the Norwegian island of Utøya. At first, the extremist detonated a bomb in Oslo's government district, killing eight people. This first attack served as a distraction. Later that afternoon, he went to the island of Utøya, 40 km away from Oslo, which he was able to reach at 5.17pm disguised as a policeman. Here, a vacation camp of the youth organization of the Social Democratic Labor Party was held. The perpetrator opened fire and shot 69 people. After about an hour on the island, the perpetrator called the emergency services and surrendered. The call was cut off, so he tried again 30 minutes later. At 6.34pm the police were able to arrest the terrorist. Reactions on Social Media Though relatively new at that time, social media played a massive role during the unfolding events. Some of the people trapped on the island used Twitter and Facebook to communicate with each other and the outside world on what was happening on Utøya. Thus, news about the shooting actually first broke on Twitter. And the micro-blogging platform remained one of the most important sources of information for the public, for journalists (who could not access the location personally like they could after the bombing in Oslo), and – as interviews with survivors revealed – for the youths on Utøya themselves. As a result, the attacks led to a 200-percent increase in Twitter activity in Norway on 22 July 2011. The 10 most used hashtags during 22 and 23 July were all related to the attacks (e.g., #prayfornorway, #Utøya, #Oslo, #osloexpl). +
On 19 December 2016, a truck was deliberately driven into the Christmas market next to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin, leaving 12 people dead and 56 others injured. One of the victims was the truck's original driver, Łukasz Urban, who was found shot dead in the passenger seat. The truck was eventually stopped by its automatic brakes. The perpetrator was a 23-year-old (eventually rejected) asylum seeker from Tunisia. He was able to flee the scene. Four days after the attack, he was killed in a shootout with police near Milan in Italy. An initial suspect was arrested and later released due to lack of evidence. During and in the aftermath of the incident German authorities faced a very chaotic situation with excessive insecurity and high risk for the public because back then the modus operandi that uses vehicles as weapons was a relatively new phenomenon for European authorities and the perpetrator was still on the run. +