Your YouTube viewing history betrays plenty of secrets about you, revealing everything from your shameful love of Iggy Azalea to the fact you didn't know how to toast bread. In the case of ISIS, it may well betray their plans of attack.
Predata, a predictive analytics company that examines correlations between internet activity and ensuing activity IRL, noticed a spike in one particular YouTube video's traffic before some of ISIS' attacks.
According to Defense One, Predata analysts found a video called "Black Flags of Islam and Imam Mahdi" had a considerable surge in viewership in December 2015 about a week before a suicide bombing in Bangladesh was committed by an ISIS-affiliate, and then again in January right before an ISIS insurgency in Libya.
The video was taken down soon after Gizmodo published a story about the phenomenon, with YouTube citing a violation of the company's "policy on spam, deceptive practices and scams." But according to the Defense One story, the video is also known as "Black Flags of Khorasan" — and videos bearing that title still populate the site.
Scott T. Crino, Predata's managing director, told Defense One that watching the video was akin to "listening to AC/DC before weight-lifting."
"It gets them psyched up," Crino said. "So, often there's a big spike in that particular [video], prior to an event occurring."
Indeed, the since-deleted video bore such grim messages of "killing upon killing ..."
Predata argues the potentially predictive correlation between online activity and subsequent events in the world extends beyond YouTube videos. It can be applied to things like the editing of certain Wikipedia pages, for example.
As Gizmodo notes, Predata has a vested interest in making a strong case for analyzing online behavior. But given ISIS' far-reaching online presence — and its history of making some amateur mistakes — there might be something to the findings.