Have you ever wondered which words posted on social networks can draw the attention of Homeland Security and federal analysts? Now, because of the Freedom of Information Act, the list of keywords has now been posted for public view. Many of the keywords are actually pretty self explanatory, although there are a few that are relatively innocent. So the next time you post about an earthquake, are you going to have federal agents knocking down your door?
Actually that’s pretty unlikely. Although these words can trigger an additional look at your profile by investigators, they say they’re really only looking for threats, not general discontent. Unless you make a habit of posting inflammatory tweets and status updates that either suggest the government needs to be punished or seem to be using code words to cover your true intent, the analysts will probably just rubber-stamp you as investigated and nothing more will happen.
What are the disadvantages of social media monitoring?
Unfortunately, the loss of privacy is going to feel like the biggest problem for many who use social networking. It’s fairly unlikely that an innocent poster is going to be arrested without proof of crimes beyond their status updates. Sure, you could be put on a government watch list, and have trouble getting on planes without a huge hassle from the TSA because you posted something about closure, but hey, what’s a little hassle when it comes to keeping our country safe? We all have to make sacrifices, right? No?
Are there any advantages?
It wouldn’t be too far out of the realm of possibility for dissenters to covertly plan some form of attack or terrorism via social media, especially with how easily and quickly information can be shared and transferred. On top of that, it would be fairly uncomplicated to plan simultaneous attacks across the country. It’s a good idea for someone to be keeping their eyes open for this kind of collaboration.
And it’s not just terrorism Homeland Security is looking for. They also are monitoring to keep up with active natural disasters and public health threats. It’s been proven that Twitter is especially effective at quickly spreading news of natural disasters even faster than news stations can get the info on the wire, so this could lead to a faster government response to these kinds of emergencies. Regardless of the event that triggers a government response, the faster they arrive, the more lives are likely to be saved.
Realistically, they’re watching us whether we like it or not. All we can do is be clear about our intended meanings, and not joke about blowing up any bombs or crashing any planes.