If social media monitoring is good enough for prospective employers, it’s good enough for the United States Government. Where as employers may track the behaviors of future employees online, tracking social media for indications that their applicant may be a risk, the Department of Defense has begun a new initiative, which sets to track intelligence across social media.
Mounting a Social Defense
They’ve only begun to solicit proposals for the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program, but the intent is to "develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base" so they can effectively detect, classify, measure and track the development and spread of ideas and concepts that could be used to deceive and misinform. But detecting deceitful messages is just part of it, the SMISC also aims to develop best practices for recognizing what they call “persuasion campaign structures and influence operations,” identifying those involved and defusing any adverse situations with accurate information.
Similar to other propaganda initiatives carried out by the defense department previously, it’s probably the most invested our government has become when it comes to social media. Yet just like so many companies, the DOD has learned that if you can’t block it, you might as well join it.
Tweet, Tweet, Bang, Bang
Twitter, of course, is at the center of this initiative; for it’s there that we have witnessed political, civilian mobilization against demonstrative forces. It’s often on Twitter that we encountered eye-witness testimony before it reaches traditional news sources. In fact, Twitter for Newsrooms helps journalists effectively leverage the power of the microblogging network. It’s not surprising that the DOD wants to get on board.
Though the DOD has been on Twitter since August 2009, their new initiative increases their presence significantly, not just by contributing to the conversation, but monitoring it in a way that could have significant consequences. We certainly hope that this initiative doesn’t destroy the atmosphere that has made Twitter a haven for breaking news or knowledge sharing. With the Defense department developing algorithms to detect linguistic cues and analyze community engagement, hopefully it won’t serve to alienate users or dissuade users to participate openly and freely.
We’ll be curious to see which company is selected to carry out the initiative. With a start date listed as December 15, you know we’ll be keeping a close eye. Perhaps they’ll even announce it on Twitter.
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