Michael Sheldon

Tracking militants on the ground through online information.

Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, information gathered with open source research techniques has become popular as a supplement to traditional media sources, particularly in environments that may be inaccessible to the researcher. Commonly referred to under the blanket term “open source intelligence” (OSINT), these techniques are becoming increasingly mainstream, with many large media outlets and think tanks establishing OSINT-specific teams.

OSINT as a field is incredibly broad, and techniques will vary depending on the goals of the researcher. This presentation will go through experiences from past cases of tracking militant groups on the ground through the online behavior of their members, official releases, and information released by third parties. Through these case studies we will demonstrate useful processes for information collection on conflict actors and in traditionally restrictive information environments.

Michael Sheldon is a researcher for Bellingcat with a focus on Russia and Ukraine. He has a background in open source research and verification on the conflict in the Donbas. Prior to joining Bellingcat, Michael worked as a research associate at the DFRLab, a center at the Atlantic Council.