Amid the torrent of jabber in internet chat rooms--flirting by Qtpie and BoogieBoy, arguments about homework and horror flicks--are terrorists plotting their next move? The government certainly isn't discounting the possibility. It's taking the idea seriously enough to fund a year-long study on chat room surveillance under an anti-terrorism program.

A Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute computer science professor hopes to develop mathematical models that can uncover structure within the scattershot traffic of online public forums. His research could lead to a viable way for security officials to monitor internet chat for warning signs of violence, making schools and...

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