By Aaron Kesel
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the globe and compile an extensive database on journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers” who mention its name, Forbes reported.
It seems that the Trump era DHS has forgotten the First Amendment not to step on the press and press-related freedoms, which it will by intimidating journalists, keeping dossiers on us all, and even compiling a list of bloggers who merely utter the entity’s name.
All of this is part of the department’s so-called “media monitoring” that was posted on the federal job finding site FedBizOpps.gov (Federal Business Opportunities.) The job ad shows that the DHS is looking for “Media Monitoring Services.”
The agency seeks to track more than 290,000 global news sources as well as social media in over 100 languages for instant translation into English. The successful contracting company will have “24/7 Access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” in order to “identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event.”
“Any media coverage” as you might imagine is quite broad and includes “online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry publications, local sources, national/international outlets, traditional news sources, and social media.”
What’s extremely frightening and worrying is the database will be browseable by “location, beat and type of influencer,” and for each influencer, the chosen contractor should “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”
The contractor shall provide NPPD/OUS with traditional and social media monitoring and communications solutions.
Services shall enable NPPD/OUS to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.
- Overview of search results in terms of online articles and social media conversations
They truly want the government birth name of every Facebook and Twitter user that mentions the words DHS. What’s more is they will also have the ability to target everyone discussing a mass shooting or terrorist attack.
- Ability to analyze the media coverage in terms of content, volume, sentiment, geographical spread, top publications, media channels, reach, AVE, top posters, influencers, languages, momentum, circulation.
A spokesman for DHS on Friday pushed back on Friday against reports warning about the agency’s plan to compile a list of media professionals and influencers as part of its “media monitoring” program.
Seven companies so far have already expressed interest in becoming a vendor for the contract, according to the FedBizOpps website.
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Responding to a tweet from the Committee to Protect Journalists questioning the program, from the Forbes report, DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton suggested that critics who cited the department’s news tracking plan as a supposed attack on the press were “conspiracy theorists.”
“Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media,” Houlton tweeted.
Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists. https://t.co/XGgFFH3Ppl
— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) April 6, 2018
So now the DHS is insisting that anyone who thinks that their outrageous spying program is a violation of human privacy rights is a “tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorist.”
Predictably, the FBI probably keeps a file on every alternative news journalist or anyone who really tells the “TRUTH” whatever that may be.
Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 13 years in 2016 amid unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies and new moves by authoritarian states to control the media, including beyond their borders, according to Freedom House.
In 2014, the ACLU reported that large-scale surveillance by the U.S. government was undermining the work of journalists and lawyers. One can only imagine what they think about the DHS, another agency spying on journalists.
As an example, the FBI probably has a file on Julian Assange of the publication WikiLeaks because WikiLeaks opens governments and gives transparency to the public. Now we can all just add the DHS to that ongoing list of agencies that are keeping tabs on us. But whatever happened to Echelon, because I thought there were admittedly Fusion Centers, stingrays and the NSA? Why do we need another agency spying on us all?
More questions remain: Will the journalists on the list be notified they’ve been added? Do they have any control over what data is added about them? The job offer states, “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant,” seems to imply journalists will have profiles with a variety of information. Does that open the door to connect this info with any other data DHS can get its hands on: job histories, criminal histories, etc.?