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Researchers Use Twitter to Identify Psychopaths

In a world where social media is progressively becoming more important to the mainstream, researchers have now used Twitter to determine whether a user is a psychopath. A group of folks from the Online Privacy Foundation and Florida Atlantic University, with some help from data-competition website Kaggle, have come up with a way to mathematically determine if a Twitter user tends toward the more psychopathic. Cue the mass protection of Twitter accounts.

Some of the indicative markers include the following: use of periods, cursing, the word “we,” filler words, and the obvious “hate.” These, of course, aren’t causation or something that inherently makes one a psychopath. They could just be a very opinionated group of grammarians. Plus, filler words serve a, um, function, so yeah.

Chris Sumner, from the Online Privacy Foundation, notes that the research could help the FBI or similar offices flag psychopaths but finds the potential use for analyzing large groups of people psychologically more compelling. In theory, traits could be compared country by country or state by state. And the majority of the data is sitting out there in the wild for the taking. An incredible number of potential data points ripe for the picking.

To jump from this to a potential Minority Report situation is alarmist at best but isn’t entirely far-fetched. After all, we already know social media is being monitored for potential threats. Why wouldn’t governments mine it for psychological data too?

(Forbes via Slashdot, image credit via Matt Cox)

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