Homeland Security Monitoring Journalist and ‘Media Influencers’

In the latest move by the Department of Homeland Security, they outlined a plan by the subject of “Media Monitoring Services”. As they outlined in the plan, the DHS plans to collect and watch activities of any media influencers. This is just another move by a government in the ongoing move to silence freedom of press.

Across the globe, journalists and media influencers constantly live in fear, as states punish those who speak out against the government. Multiple campaigns exist to increase awareness of the dangers journalists face, as well as make the population aware of the countless imprisoned journalists around the world. Media influencers are subject to punishment, enduring physical and psychological torture, even sometimes murder. And now the US, known for having freedom of press, is gathering a list of media influencers and journalists? Red flags should be going off.

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DHS plans to track around 300,000 global news sources and social media and not just in the English speaking world. The sources they will track are in more than 100 languages. The contracting company in charge of the task will have “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” so they can “identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event.”
The idea that they can cover any and all media sources is a terrifying thought, as essentially anything published falls under that blanket of media coverage. Furthermore, anyone with access to the database can filter their search to “location, beat and type of influencer,” which will allow them to pull up the full history of any influencer.

The DHS has given their reason for gathering this information as, “NPPD/OUS [National Protection and Programs Directorate/Office of the Under Secretary] has a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach Federal, state, local, tribal and private partners.” AS we are not privy to the full goals of these groups, the need for the database is not fully known.

Speculation is the database could possibly be in response to the allegations in the 2016 US presidential election of Russian interference. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has already made moved to work against Russian Organizations, removing their pages from Facebook to “to protect the integrity of elections around the world.”

While the database may seem like a necessary response to Russian interference, it comes at a time when freedom of press has been increasingly under attack. Freedom House, who monitors the status of the Press, announced global freedom of press is at its lowest level in the last 10 years.

The incorporation of the DHS database is not the first time regulation of journalists has been an idea in the US. An Indiana lawmaker last year proposed that Journalists should be licensed, and while it was shut down, the DHS could be a way to do just that.
Moving forward, the implications of the DHS database are unknown yet. Whether it will affect day to day life of the influencers on the list has yet to be seen, but we are getting to possible dangerous territory regarding our freedom of press and media. Moving forward, the government should expect public resentment of such a database. Threatening free speech and press threatens our democracy.

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