As I was reading through the Toronto Star, I came across an interesting article that took social media to a whole new level for me. When I think of social media I think of users being that of businesses, organizations, and every day people - so I was intrigued to find out that the CIA is now using it as well.
CIA using Facebook and Twitter
In Virginia and other agencies throughout the USA the CIA is following tweets (up to 5 million per day). The CIA is also using its' Open Source Centre to go through Facebook, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations, Internet chat rooms and anything overseas that anyone can access and contribute to openly.
Due to these social medias, the CIA knew about the uprising in Egypt before it happened, and used Twitter to create a report for the White House on what the public opinion was when Osama Bin Laden was killed.
Why social media?
The CIA realized that social media could be important to them in 2009 when they noticed the Twitter-sphere rock the Iranian regime during the Green Revolution. They also realized that they could track online use in China, or find out the mood of online users in Pakistan.
The people behind the computer
When I learned that the CIA was using social media, I pictured a bunch of college students sitting behind computers mindlessly monitoring Twitter feeds looking for information. When I read more into the article I found out that the people behind the computers are analysts that usually have master's degrees in library science and multiple languages. They are able to take the feeds in any language, cross reference them with local newspapers, and than translate them to compile them into reports.
Where will social media take the government
The CIA has integrated their social media findings into the presidential daily briefings. With this information they are able to give the president an international snapshot of what is going on. They also use this information to give him feedback on the effects of his presidential addresses in different parts of the world. For example, in the presidents address about Mideast issues within 24 hours the CIA was able to find that there was an overall negative response from Turkey, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria and the Persian Gulf.
The government can now also use social media as a key resource to to follow any fast-moving crisis. Generally speaking, the public have now become the journalists being able to upload pictures and tweet about situations that are taking place across the globe.
Do you think that social media will take over the jobs of journalists to report news? Do you believe that the CIA is opening the door for other government agencies to use social media to monitor national and international affairs?