Ninja librarians tracking Social Media

I recently read this article that describes how the CIA have analysts that look over tweets and any other social media outlet where people can have their voice openly. The “Open Source Center was set up after 9/11 in response to the counterterrorism efforts of the U.S. The CIA analysts call themselves “ninja librarians”, admit jokingly. The AP reports that the Open Source Center looks at roughly 5 million tweets a day.

CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood says there is no effort to collect information on Americans. The center’s focus is on collecting information regarding “foreign intelligence issues.” They tracked how the world reacted after Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in May and keep tabs on other areas of the world where the United States has ties to economically or politically.

Sites like Twitter and Facebook are key sources for the CIA in following fast paced crisis zones such as London during the riots over the summer and the revolt in Egypt last spring. I have a few concerns over this. When will the CIA start targeting Americans? Many citizens in this country are becoming fed up with the high unemployment, bank bailouts, lame duck politics, and a host of other issues. Occupy Wall Street is a a fast rising movement where a number of locations are host to people who are protesting that the wealth distribution in this country is at an extreme gap and the middle class is eroding in this country. What if this movement continues to grow? What if off shoot movements start popping up around the nation? Will the CIA start tracking Americans who pose a threat to the societal norms that are set up or even start shutting down social media outlets like China or Iran has in the past?

If the CIA or any other intelligence agency had legitimate reasons to track Americans, they probably would in my opinion. The mood in this country is turning more sour by the day with people losing pensions and their livelihood. Citizens are going to become more dissident. Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools for organizing and up to the minute details of what and where things are happening. But this powerful tool can be used against people. This is just one way through government survelliance. People need to be aware of what they post on social media outlets. It is not a matter of being aware so your employer or significant other finds something you would rather keep private. But it is also a matter of a big brother having a watchful eye. So much for privacy. 


Ethan Schwaber
Senior, Information Science 

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