Warnings are heating up on the web from independent journalists about a new plan by the federal government to hire a private company to spy on them and others.
At the blog American Dream, where the slogan is “Fighting to Restore our Constitutional Republic,” Michael Snyder explained, “Many were hoping that once Barack Obama was out of office we would see less of this Big Brother surveillance nonsense, but instead it seems to be getting even worse.”
However, he said, the Department of Homeland Security “has just announced that it intends to compile a comprehensive list of hundreds of thousands of ‘journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.’, and collect any ‘information that could be relevant’ about them.”
He pointed out DHS already has announced that it will “hire a contractor to aid in monitoring media coverage, and they will definitely need plenty of help because it is going to be a very big job.”
The targeting comes at a time when the media industry already is unstable. Legacy newspapers are on the edge of going out of business because of the ad revenue shift from print to the internet. Television networks are facing the same battles. Some respected news magazines have simply vanished.
And online news sources face a financial threat if their viewpoint doesn’t align with behemoths such as YouTube, Google and Facebook, which control the vast majority of online ad revenue.
Bloomberg Government reported the surveillance was launched because DHS “wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top ‘media influencers.'”
That’s known because DHS was seeking a contractor to help with the work.
“The data to be collected includes a publication’s ‘sentiment’ as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed,” the report said.
“Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” the federal agency revealed.
The report said the DHS “wants to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media, according to the documents.”
“It also wants the ability to track media coverage in more than 100 languages including Arabic, Chinese, and Russian, with instant translation of articles into English.”
Lawmakers also have expressed concern about media.
A number of lawmakers have asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions if Al Jazeera “should register as a foreign agent because it ‘often directly undermines’ U.S. interests with favorable coverage of Hamas, Hezbollah and al-Qaida’s branch in Syria.”
The Gizmodo blog said the database has a dual purpose: “monitoring hundreds of thousands of news sources simultaneously worldwide as well as tracking and categorizing journalists and bloggers.”
The report said that perhaps “even more chilling given the current media climate, the platform would also feature a database filled with the personal and social media data of ‘journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, [and] bloggers,’ searchable by location, beat, publication, and ad-hoc keywords.”
It asked: “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 bid’s language, ‘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, a list of phobias, etc?”
Snyder warned, “If this sounds extremely creepy to you, that is because it is extremely creepy.”
And he said it will come sooner rather than later.
“Unfortunately, it appears that this new Department of Homeland Security program is moving ahead rapidly. In fact, it is being reported that seven different companies have ‘already expressed interest’ in participating.”