Well, this is creepy: According to Bloomberg Law, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is currently shopping for a contractor that can help it compile a list of editors, journalists, and online "media influencers." Additionally, they're looking for goons to help them identify all social media coverage that relates to the agency or events that the agency may be involved in.
"Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers," according to the statement. DHS agencies have "a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach federal, state, local, tribal, and private partners," it said.
The plan, according to DHS, is to set up a database of influential journalists, publications and online influencers. Those with access to the database–you can go ahead and read that as Big Brother–will be able to browse "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."
So, kind of like Mudrack, but for spooks.
The proposed database could be searchable by factors such as what beat a writer covers, where they're located, what publications they work for, and whether they rely on local or international sources in their work. Now, here's where it gets ugly. One of the other points that DHS wants to be able to search is the "sentiment" of a story. Was a writer's take on events pro-America or not? Did a columnist write an op-ed that looked on President Trump's latest policy trainwreck unfavorably?
You could look at this measure and say that it comes as a response to the threat of "fake news": being able to keep track of who's writing what could help to curb the dissemination of false information. Fine. But at a time when lawmakers are proposing that journalists and news outlets be licensed and our rights to digital privacy are being eroded, DHS' searching for a vendor to undertake such a monitoring project feels pretty fucking sinister.
Freedom House, an organization that monitors incidents of media suppression, attacks on journalists and freedom of the press around the world, has been tracking an uptick in attacks on press freedoms over the past few years. Right now, if you visit their site, you'll find that they're not too concerned about what's going on with press freedoms in North America. Should The Department of Homeland Security's project be used to track, question, intimidate, or suppress journalists and the outlets that they work for, what they have to report about North America could look a whole lot different in a real short amount of time.
Image: Eric J. Hebert, USCGAUX – USCGAUX Public Affairs, Public Domain, Link