Should the government be able to monitor social media?
Socrates once said that the virtue of goodness comes from knowledge. The opposite is ignorance or lack of knowledge, which is considered “evil.” In modern terms, this means the ability of the media to retain information in a way that alters its meaning. Censorship, propaganda, conspiracy, these are the worst scenarios that can result from the power of the media that would be considered immoral. But maybe we should look at it from another perspective. Instead of knowledge being purely good and ignorance being purely bad, we should instead consider how that knowledge or ignorance is being used. For example, the Department of Homeland Security’s use of social media monitoring as a means of assessing public belief and sentiment toward certain “sensitive” topics. This is not immoral because the government withholds information from the people, but because of the accessibility of information about the people by the government.
The social media / media capability was officially announced in a privacy compliance review on November 15, 2011, but was formulated as early as June 2010. According to the review, this capability was intended to allow the government to use the opening of the social networks of the web. means of early identification of potential threats and “gathering information used to provide situational awareness and establish a common operational picture”. The problem is that, as in many government documents, the words are quite ambiguous and evasive. What types of threats are they looking to identify? What kind of “common operating picture” are they trying to create? They make these monitors appear to have a specific purpose, but the extent to which they are used to achieve that purpose is not stated.
Here’s what we know: The government has set up monitoring accounts on multiple forms of social media, including major sites Facebook, Twitter, and Wikileaks, but the full list of monitored sites is unknown. The privacy and civil rights ethics of this are obviously questionable, but in light of the SOPA / FIPA backlash and controversy, it seems we’ve hit a double-edged sword. If Internet access is free, then we must also allow the ability to monitor sites. It is not just the government with the ability to do this, but anyone with a computer and internet access. To say that the government cannot do this directly contradicts our belief in the freedom of the web. So what’s worse, too much information or not enough?