This week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) quietly announced that they will be compiling a database of journalists and “media influencers.” The news was first released in a FedBizOpps.gov post titled “Media Monitoring Services,” which was taken down after news of the listing went viral. (archive)
The DHS has responded critics of their plan shortly after, saying that this is a standard practice, and “Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”
Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists. https://t.co/XGgFFH3Ppl
— Tyler Q. Houlton (@SpoxDHS) April 6, 2018
According to the statement, “Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers. 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.
The agency is also seeking “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.”
The report said that the DHS will be keeping an eye on at least 290,000 global news sources, and seeking the ability to track media coverage in up to 100 languages as well as the ability to “track online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry publications, local sources, national/international outlets, traditional news sources, and social media.”
The statement also indicated that the database would include mainstream media sources as well as bloggers and independent journalists. This is concerning because in times of extreme despotism, silencing the press through prison and execution is an age-old tactic of tyrannical regimes. A database like this would make it extremely easy for them to round up journalists who were oppositional to the establishment.
Oddy enough, the agency will also be closely watching to see if they are mentioned in the news.
“Services shall enable [the DHS’s National Protection and Program’s Directorate] to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers,” the statement said.
According to a 2017 report by the independent research group Freedom House, press freedom in the United States and across the world is at its lowest point in 13 years. The report found that there were “unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies and new moves by authoritarian states to control the media, including beyond their borders.”
This is an ominous sign of things come for the media, especially those who question authority.
Image: Gil C/Shutterstock.com.