Big Sis To Monitor Twitter For Signs Of Social UnrestFederal agency concerned about riots breaking out in United States
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Nov. 01, 2011
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The wave of civil unrest that has swept the globe over the past year has prompted the Department of Homeland Security to step up its monitoring of Twitter and other social networks in a bid to pre-empt any sign of social dislocation within the United States.
“Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Caryn Wagner said the use of such technology in uprisings that started in December in Tunisia shocked some officials into attention and prompted questions of whether the U.S. needs to do a better job of monitoring domestic social networking activity,” reports the Associated Press.
Wagner announced that the federal agency would implement new guidelines that would focus on “gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes.”
Under the new framework, when the department receives information about a “potential threat,” it will then ask its contractors to look for relevant search references using “open source” information.
Although it’s somewhat naive to think that Homeland Security wasn’t already scanning the likes of Facebook and Twitter for social trends and signs of civil unrest, the fact that its now being announced publicly illustrates the increasing concern that riots which have hit the Middle East and Europe over the last 18 months will soon manifest themselves inside the United States.
Indeed, US law enforcement bodies are already scanning Twitter and Facebook for signs of unrest. Having launched a specialized unit to focus on gleaning clues from social media websites, the NYPD Disorder Control Unit recently brought together police from all five of the city's boroughs to rehearse what the response would be "should out-of-control riots break out here".
Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter came in for harsh condemnation following the UK riots, with Prime Minister David Cameron advocating authorities have the power to shut down access during times of public disorder, mimicking the Communist Chinese system of Internet censorship, which is used to curtail political protests.
Although the Occupy Wall Street movement has been the only real expression of civil unrest in the United States thus far, a worsening economic climate almost guarantees the prospect of an increase in social disorder across the globe.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO), a prominent UN agency, warned yesterday that the world faces an imminent "dramatic downturn" in employment, and a new recession which in turn would lead to greater social unrest, particularly in European countries.
In preparation for potential riots inside the United States, the U.S. Army War College's Strategic Institute issued a report in November 2008 entitled Known Unknowns: Unconventional Strategic Shocks in Defense Strategy Development.
The report lays out the strategy for how authorities would respond to "purposeful domestic resistance," wherein U.S. troops would be deployed domestically to counter civil unrest. The report was issued weeks after the onset of the 2008 financial crisis, and included a potential “economic collapse” as one of the scenarios under which troops would be used inside the U.S. to restore order.
Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a regular fill-in host for The Alex Jones Show.