Fellowship of the Minds is delighted to have a guest writer today.
Her name is Fiona Causer, who describes herself as “a student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies. She enjoys writing and seeks to use it as a vehicle to convey ideas and engage others in discussing relevant issues of our day.”
I’m impressed by the quality of her writing — lucid, fluid, and displaying a mastery over the English language which, in my experience, few college undergraduates have. I’m even more impressed by her political awareness and sure instincts. Fiona gives me hope for America’s future.
Social Media: A Step Towards a Big Brother State
by Fiona Causer
While some people fear the intrusion of employers and potential employers into the world of social media, others know the real issue is far bigger: The intrusion of federal, state and local government agencies into social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Law programs and paralegal certification curricula that focus on privacy law maintain a strong emphasis on the Bill of Rights, namely the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and an American’s right to speak freely without fear of government persecution. But currently, it appears the interpretation of that Constitutional right is being blurred. George Orwell’s dystopic vision of Big Brother is puny when compared to the technology available today to government bureaucrats, which can and are used against innocent American citizens who simply want to share pictures of their grandchildren and an occasional political opinion.
Think it’s far-fetched that government employees are monitoring Facebook posts and Twitter tweets?
According to an article in The Washington Post, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained a copy of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) materials related to monitoring social media. Ginger McCall, director of EPIC’s open government program, said in the article, “The language in the documents makes it quite clear that they are looking for media reports that are critical of the agency and the U.S. government more broadly. This is entirely outside of the bounds of the agency’s statutory duties and it could have a substantial chilling effect on legitimate dissent and freedom of speech.”
The New York Times report on a 2011 reference guide for DHS analysts provides further evidence of the government’s intrusion into private lives, including a list of categories of “items of interest” that will trigger a DHS report of an individual’s social media activity. Among the categories is discussion of “policy directives, debates and implementations related to DHS.” In other words, individuals interested in having an online discussion about DHS policies are in danger of being reported to the government.
The DHS manual also lists keywords that DHS bureaucrats are searching for when they peruse Twitter feeds and Facebook posts. While DHS representatives claim the key words are primarily related to natural disasters or problems with long airport security lines, the manual lists far more inclusive terms such as “China, cops, hacking, illegal immigrants, Iran, Iraq, marijuana, organized crime, police, pork and radicals.” In other words, beware of discussing solutions to the problem of illegal immigration or posting a harmless recipé for a pulled pork sandwich!
Social media monitoring isn’t limited just to DHS. In fact, the FBI plans to monitor Facebook and Twitter as well as online blogs using keyword searches, too. Some of the keywords the FBI plans to search for include “white powder, suspicious package, lock down, bomb, active shoot, and school lock down”, according to an article on itbusiness.ca.
What happened to the U.S. Constitution’s protection for American citizens? Private citizens and civil liberties groups are rightfully concerned about the impact of these new governmental snooping into social media.
The First Amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press. One is hard pressed to find in the First Amendment justification for government bureaucrats reading blog posts, Facebook posts and Tweets.
The Fourth Amendment gives Americans the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects,against unreasonable searches and seizures.” When government snoops into our social media — our technological online homes — that should be construed as a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
All this is yet another sign that rapidly changing technology is outpacing our political institutions. The Founding Fathers and the Constitution they crafted did not anticipate our 21st century world of Facebook, Twitter, stem cells, biometric IDs, and radical transhuman bio-engineering.
In the end, tasked by the Constitution with that responsibility, the Supreme Court will need to step in and weigh in. Until the nine justices do that, We the People must be aware of Big Brother’s prying eyes, and exercise due caution and prudence in our online activities.