Your Tweets are Under Surveillance

By K.A. Laity

The Defense Department has announced a new project to follow you in cyberspace. No, they're not friending you on Facebook or plus-one-ing you on Google+ (is anyone bothering to do that still?), but they might be following you on Twitter.

Look for the new follower @janejones or @samsmith in your tweetstream.

This new initiative, Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC), which will cost around $42 million will attempt to follow memes and trends, apparently mostly on Twitter. The DoD wants to keep tabs on your passing whims in case they might reveal a threat to security. Their fourfold plan includes:

1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.

Will they follow the latest fake celebrity-has-died rumour in case it has more sinister implications? Will they be able to stop a meme from happening or a trend from sprouting? Will they be able to put an end to Owling?!

2. Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social mediasites and communities.

Your Twitalyzer or Klout rating may lead to a DoD investigation. How influential do you want to be? Will everyone who makes the pathetic begging request, "I'm almost to XXX followers! Help me reach the next level! RT Please! :-D," be investigated for possible subversive intent? Your successful branding of your SF series may inadvertently put you on a watch list ("Case file note: viability of lemur counter-insurgence?") and your links to hilarious cake disasters may have brought you to the attention of the FDA.

3. Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns.

I'm guessing they're already looking into the Isaiah Mustafa/Fabio hostilities and the attention that conflict has garnered. We must make the nation safe.

4. Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations.

Because the government has proved so effective in compelling and readable prose, doubtless they will shine in this department. Imagine what the response to seductive adversarial prose will be. When ne'er-do-well agitators encourage your anger that fat cat members of Congress receive a government-subsidized health care plan that you envy from your unemployed position on the brink of bankruptcy should you be unlucky enough to have a minor accident or major disease, will they tweet some pithy words from Tom Paine like, "An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot"?

Best of all, they're soliciting proposals! I'm sure I can come up with a proposal that would turn my endless hours on social media into a lucrative government contract. I just need a catchy name for my Twitter-based influence-peddling company. Maybe I'll ask the hive mind…

K. A. Laity writes so much that she had to create some pseudonyms to keep her colleagues from thoughts of murder. A tenured medievalist at a small liberal arts college, she mostly tries to find ways to avoid meetings in order to write more . Find her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter where wields an adversarial influence by bombarding her followers with too many Fall lyrics.

Thu, 04 Aug 2011 09:27 (GMT+01)
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