Darlene Storm

Federal Reserve to monitor billions of convos for 'Fed', determine mood, ID bloggers

September 27, 2011 9:56 AM EDT

How often do you mention the word 'Fed' online? There is about to be a new breed of Big Brother "watchers" and electronic surveillance on billions of online conversations before eavesdropping on the emotion behind how the 'Fed' was used. The monitoring will include identifying and reaching out to "key bloggers" and "influencers."

ZeroHedge reported the Federal Reserve Bank will soon monitor billions of conversations on social networking sites to know who mentions "Fed" as well as the sentiment in which it was used. The Federal Reserve is looking for a "Communication Group" to monitor social media platforms. The Fed expects the Watchers to be "timely and proactively aware of the reactions and opinions expressed by the general public as it relates to the Federal Reserve and its actions on a variety of subjects."

No one should be surprised. Monitoring social media is a common tactic for both business brands and the government. Last year, the EFF warned that Big Brother wants to be your social networking buddy. The EFF also disclosed that Homeland Security was monitoring social media during the Obama Inauguration. Do you really think electronic surveillance slowed down after that? The devil is in the details, in the "hot" keywords which DHS has long been monitoringMac Slavo at SHTFplan previously pointed out, "Fellow Americans, everything you do is being monitored." At the rate people are being added to watch lists, "the terrorist watch list will exceed the U.S. population by 2019." And Wired reported this summer, the "Pentagon wants a social media propaganda machine."

In an article about Post 9/11, Politico's James Bamford explained, "Somewhere between Sept. 11 and today, the enemy morphed from a handful of terrorists to the American population at large, leaving us nowhere to run and no place to hide." Yes, the NSA considers "us" the enemy. Former NSA "voice interceptor" Adrienne Kinne told Bamford, "We were told that we were to listen to all conversations that were intercepted, to include those of Americans. Some of those conversations are personal. Some even intimate."

The Federal Reserve's "Sentiment Analysis And Social Media Monitoring Solution Request for Proposal" was posted on Scribd. The solution to "continuously monitor conversations" must be able to "gather data from the primary social media platforms - Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums and YouTube." It must also "provide real-time monitoring of relevant conversations" and "aggregate data from various media outlets such as: CNN, WSJ, Factiva etc."  It should "provide sentiment analysis (positive, negative or neutral) around key conversational topics" as well as "handle crisis situations." And after the sentiment is determined, "the solution should provide an alerting mechanism that automatically sends out reports or notifications based a predefined trigger." It is also supposed to "identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers" while monitoring billions of conversations.

(The document is also posted on Public Intelligence which states you can securely request information about the proposal or links to prove its authenticity.) 

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The way we get and digest our news continues to evolve. 43% of Americans get their news from the Internet, according to a survey published by Pew Research Center for The People & The Press [PDF]. TV as a news source has hit an all-time low. So all those blogs relating news and opinions really add up, even if Contagion called blogs "graffiti with punctuation." Most of the sites on the Pew list are large websites, but things continue to change in our mobile world of geosocial services and location-based technology. For example, 73% of the 83% of American adults with cell phones, send and receive texts. 31% would rather receive a text than a phone call. Just as those numbers will increase, so will the percentage of people who get their news primarily off the web.

In regard to the Federal Reserve creating its own "Attack Watch" program to monitor free speech on the Internet , before it too becomes a potential smear campaign laughingstock, perhaps we can save the Fed a little money as there are plenty of free tools to compile or aggregate keyword mentions in social media? It's unclear what precisely the Fed might wish to do about those bloggers of influence who unflatteringly use new hot keywords like the Fed . . . but have you seen The Adjustment Bureau?

As more government agencies monitor keywords and the "tone" in which those words are used, will it slide us ever closer to Internet censorship? At least choice and Freedom of Speech is not something publicly announced to land you on a  terrorist watch list . . . oh wait. I almost forgot, the Defense Department has previously blocked access to any article with "WikiLeaks" in the title because unauthorized reading of classified diplomatic cables and the Espionage Act could make felons of us all

And now, here comes the Fed.