00:47 - Source: CNN
Charting pirates with Twitter

Story highlights

Pirates are using Twitter, Facebook and other social media to do their business

Security analysts are using social media chatter to better understand the pirate trade

In 2011, the total cost of piracy to the shipping industry was estimated at $7 billion

"Somalia ... has one of the best mobile phone communication systems in the world"

CNN —  

Shipping companies may have found a new tool to fight piracy: It turns out, pirates like to tweet.

Not only that, Somali-based pirates blog and are on Facebook, security experts say. And it is through social media that shipping companies are increasing their understanding of how they operate.

“Somalia is a very sophisticated economy, it has one of the best mobile phone communication systems in the world,” said Jessica Lincoln, director of intelligence at Rubicon Resolution, a risk consultancy.

Lincoln follows pirates’ activities using what she describes as “normal” web tools. She gathers whatever individuals and organizations like al-Qaeda’s Somali affiliate Al-Shabaab post online about attacks. The insurgent organization runs a Twitter account where it publicizes its activities. The Al-Shabaab Twitter account has been a part of the debate over whether terrorist organizations should be allowed to use Twitter.

Twitter does not take responsibility for the accuracy and appropriateness of user content in its terms of service.

Another source for her is the Kenyan army, which Lincoln describes as fully engaged in online exchanges with Al-Shabaab.