How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

Summary: Jimmy Kimmel is on a one-man mission against the 'culture of Facebook' by announcing National Unfriend Day. But it may well offer a positive side effect: preventing terrorism.

SHARE:

Jimmy Kimmel is on a one-man mission against the 'culture of Facebook' by announcing National Unfriend Day. Yet by stripping out unnecessary and unwanted contacts from your friends list may well offer a positive side effect: preventing terrorism.

The idea is simple. 17th November will be a dedicated day to removing the people off your friends lists who do not rightfully have status there. Of course, it is wise to keep your personal social network pruned throughout the year anyway, but if someone is there who you never got to know all that well or haven't spoken to in years, rip them out of there.

The argument is that with constructs such as Facebook and other social networks, the concept of friendship becomes diluted as the vast number of 'friends' connected to your profile can become a status symbol.

You can watch the full video of Kimmel explaining this below, or skip to the good bit.

Take two examples: "Jane" and "Zack". (You would be right in thinking that the latter is in fact me). Now both Jane and I are good friends and have not only worked together, studied together but also gone out many a time drinking together. She's not famous by any means but has over 1,500 friends. I have 200 friends and I got spotted a dozen times in a week by random readers on the street of New York.

Whether one is picky over his friends, or whether the other has an inability to decline friendship, she is more likely to be hooded, thrown into the back of a van and detained under the Terrorism Act. I am not as likely to, and I'm the Touretter who involuntarily shouts "bomb" very loudly at train stations.

For me, my social network represents my actual friends. I have about 200 real world friends, which goes above the researched average of 150 according to the BBC programme 'QI'.

Why terrorism then?

Have you ever heard the saying, "it's not what you know, but who you know"? It also applies to counter-terrorism. There is not very much material outside or even inside the academic community, but one BBC news source from 2009 describes the need to focus on "contacts not content".

One counter-terrorism expert told me that though it is "not necessarily common knowledge to the wider public", counter-terrorism officials and law enforcement are vastly more interested in the connections you make with other people than the content of your conversations.

When linking one person to a known 'terrorist' (single quotation because frankly there are hundreds of 'official' definitions for terrorism) it allows law enforcement to apply for warrants to collect intelligence under acts of law; whereas a hunch or a gut feeling does not wash with the courts.

By reducing the number of friends you have to actual, real-life friends that you know inside out lowers the risk of someone you may not know that well being linked in some way to terrorism, thus de-linking you also. It doesn't necessarily apply to terrorism; it can apply to organised crime and other online misdemeanours too.

When minimising the links with these people, undoubtedly you will lower the number of connections that your now de-friended contact has, which increases the saturation levels for terrorist-related friends and therefore a higher density of terrorists, making it easier to find and prevent attacks. It is unwise to not believe that al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups do not use social networking, because they do.

So remember, remember the 17th of November, by unfriending all the social miscellany from your life.

Topics: Government US, Government

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

21 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

    So, forget my birthday and haven't contacted me for more than 2 months.
    You are the weakest friend!
    Good Bye!
    Agnostic_OS
  • Linked to terrorism?

    I'm more worried about being linked to Kevin Bacon.
    bsvee
    • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

      @bsvee LOL!
      Adrian Kingsley-Hughes
  • They should give lessons

    I'm throughly amazed at the unparalelled success that Al-Qaeda reached with 9-11. When it gets to the point that you have to filter your friends out of suspicion they might think something considered "terrorist" you have to admit it: Bin Laden pulled out a masterpiece.
    dragonmago@...
    • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

      @dragonmago@...

      Agreed. The fact is that we need to stop worrying about being connected to a 'terrorist' (that term is overused anyway) and should just focus on people who are KNOWN ZEALOTS!

      I mean, just because I know a Muslim who is extremely religion doesn't mean that I or they are a terrorist.
      Lerianis10
  • better way to prevent terrorism

    1) stop occupying other countries
    2) stop terrorizing and invading people's privacy in the name of security.

    Here's a better idea...add MORE random friends. Eventually the concept becomes meaningless and the "security" agencies are unable to get anything out of it.

    gary
    gdstark13
    • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

      @gdstark13 Too simple, too efficient, too effective !
      It has failed all three political criteria for a solution !
      Glottalpoly
      • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

        @Glottalpoly

        You got me there.

        gary
        gdstark13
    • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

      @gdstark13 Yet another one.
      ItsTheBottomLine
  • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

    Seems to me you have it completely backwards. Unfriending removes potential links for authorities to follow in order to track down terrorists thereby making their job more difficult. Instead, we should all add as many friends as possible in order to provide the authorities with links to as many potential terrorists as we can! Hell, it's practically our patriotic duty.
    rpcohen
  • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

    My FB problem is Zuckerbungler's redefinition of 'Friend' (single quotes because ...). In the real world I have 'friends' (really). These are people I like and associate with, by choice.

    On FB, if President Osama Bin Bush (OBB) proposes invading another country, just because his his boiled egg isnt the right consistency for his toast slices, some of us might want to suggest an alternative strategy, like resigning and raising chickens.

    To post a message on OBB's page I need to be a "Friend". Then all I need is another Mcarthy to come along and ask "Have you at any time been a friend of OBB" and I am screwed in every sense except the nice one.

    FB needs a "Connected But NOT a Friend" status; this has the advantage that it could also be used for "Relatives".
    Glottalpoly
    • This is what...

      @Glottalpoly LinkedIn and Twitter are for :)
      zwhittaker
  • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

    While social networks have been supported by games where in many games it has been an advantage to have 600 or more other game players; moreover games often have very different demographics of people to which specific games appeal -- the concept of 'friend' already has a different meaning for many in the context of that person's use of social networking.
    Intolerance of the other perspectives or use of social networks seems to provide some with a means of micromanaging their personal definition of 'social network' friends with vague balloons of meaning that make sense only to those who choose to subscribe to such theologies.
    Gingerchews
  • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

    Best way to avoid the problem get out of face book and use the old email to keep in touch with friend with a mailing list.
    edleboeuf@...
  • Utter BS

    Zak, do you really think that by unfriending people I know who are not actually terrorists will help thwart terrorism? You need to get out of college and into the world.
    cwallen19803@...
    • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

      @cwallen19803@... Did you not read the BBC News story? Why not embark upon leaving work and doing a degree instead? You'd be surprised at how much you learn when you enter academia at long last. You can't even spell my name correctly.
      zwhittaker
  • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

    I am normally unfriendly - every day. It just means that I don't have any friends.

    KJR
    kjrider@...
    • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

      @kjrider@...
      Absolutely! I'm with you...

      ...err maybe not
      Agnostic_OS
  • Run for your life!

    I've got to hand it to you Zack, you win the prize for the all time best (as in hugely absurd) attempt at fear-mongering I have ever witnessed. I had not given Kimmel's silly notion much thought, but after reading this, my goal will be to see just how many people I can add as friends on 11/17. Yep, you can bet I'll be sending one your way. Don't accept it, I'm known to lurk in the most mysterious of ways.
    pastol
    • RE: How 'National Unfriend Day' can prevent terrorism

      @pastol Again, try reading that BBC News article. You might even learn something!
      zwhittaker