Well, according the the Courthouse News Service, that title should grab the attention of the various flunkies, toadies and various homeland security ne’er do wells.
I guess I can see why some might find the idea of government agencies monitoring social media and websites as potentially dangerous. Just because said flunkies are surfing the web, however, does not mean that they are compiling full dossiers on every kooky blogger out there. In fact, it’s not clear to me how intelligence analysts can be expected to know about emerging trends and issues without doing such ‘monitoring’.
I’d go even further and say that such monitoring is important to gauge the ‘baseline’ of a particular community in order to identify what falls outside normal boundaries. Now, I’m not saying that many people actually do that (especially in any sort of systematic way) outside of the Federal Intelligence Community but it is am important function. It’s important to know, for example if a particular online voice or community engages in (for example) violent imagery when expressing their opinions yet never translates that into action or if new terminology is introduced.
I would think we’d want to know if a white supremacist group (insert whatever threat group you’d like here) suddenly began calling for armed attacks and began posting information about potential targets. Unfortunately, we aren’t always so fortunate to have potentially violent extremists to flock together on clearly designated websites. Like ‘ordinary’ people, they tend to occupy multiple spaces and (must…resist…connect the dots reference) you’re going to want as complete a picture as possible in order to make decent analysis.
On the other hand, I suppose the real question is about monitoring perfectly legal behavior. This is where both good policy and good oversight should come into play and there I’m unable to speak to how well those work. What obviously doesn’t seem to work too well, is the communication of the why and (perhaps more importantly, the how) of all this searching.
That brings me back to what seems to becoming an old trope here at TwShiloh which is the need for a good information plan.