Textual Profiling?

A Case of Who Texted It

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You can tell a lot about a person by their handwriting—I’m not a licensed graphologist, if there is such a thing, but it’s a cool party trick I do—but characterizing and profiling someone by their text messages? British scientists say sure, and linguistic study of text messages could help in murder cases.

“It’s elementary, my dear Watson,” said Holmes, turning the iPhone around for all in the room to see. “Before her disappearance, Ms. Hilton exhibited a very specific form of bad spelling and punctuation. For instance, in this message, it says ‘thts hott <3 plz put tayp n storige.’ In a later text message, the language is much different: ‘i didit 4 tha lulz’ it reads, which obviously comes from an anonymous antagonist."

The British Association for the Advancement of Science evidences a narrative from a murder case earlier this year. As that story goes, a man was convicted of murder after messages sent from the victim’s phone were shown not to match earlier ones from before she disappeared. Though her body wasn’t found, spelling “myself” as “meself” was enough evidentiary boost to get the suspect convicted.

Textual Profiling

Thus, a new branch is added to forensic linguistics, which includes subtle clues about messengers via the language in their text messages. Dr. Tim Grant claims to have developed a method and a database for deciphering clues about texters. The system is based on marine ecology, which somehow sheds light on texting. (The BAAS’s account doesn’t go into detail on that.)

Grant says his method can even identify the sex of a messenger, based upon typical differences in patterns between genders. Women, for example, would be more interpersonal, where as men seem to be (as always in every study) more task oriented. At the very least, during an investigation when psychics are unavailable or unsuccessful, a forensic linguist could say whether the sender is more likely male or female.

Obviously, this wouldn’t be admissible in most court cases—it’s kind of easy to fake.

Textual Profiling?
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  • http://petermonroerealty.wordpress.com Peter Monroe

    Hey Jason.  This is interesting.  So now, it is standard in homicides to yank all SMS data?  It is a strange new world we live in.

  • http://www.ez-submit.net Ezzy

    I ready about a case over in the UK where a few people conspired to murder through IM Chat, and there was numerous fake profiles invloved and they used this profiling to work out what real person belonged to what fake accounts.

    Interesting stuff, the guy wasn’t killed but was seriously injured.

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