By Frank Whalen
The growth of the Internet in the last few years has made available new opportunities for free and unfettered political discourse in what has been called an explosion of “citizen journalism.” However, it has also spawned a whole new generation of surveillance, now being exploited by the federal authorities including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
News outlet Russia Times (RT) reported recently that DHS revealed that officials can now collect personal information from newsmen, journalists, reporters or “anyone who may use ‘traditional and/or social media in real time to keep their audience situationally aware and informed.’ ” The story explains that these changes mean “that any reporter, whether someone along the lines of Walter Cronkite or a budding blogger, can be victimized by the agency.”
Social media refers to the various websites that enable users to communicate with large numbers of people via the Internet for the purpose of sharing information. These include popular websites like those of Facebook, Twitter. and Google.
Reuters added that top-ranking Democratic and Republican leaders on the House Homeland Security Committee’s Counter-terrorism and Intelligence Subcommittee. Reuters wrote that it believes “it would be advantageous for DHS and the broader intelligence community to carefully parse the massive streams of data from various social media outlets to identify current or emerging threats to our homeland security.”
RT states: “Last month the Boston police department and the Suffolk, Massachusetts district attorney subpoenaed Twitter over details pertaining to recent tweets involving the Occupy Boston protests.”
The Examiner reported that the social media site Twitter has been “ordered to cough up the account information” of WikiLeaks supporters.
While most likely targeted toward reporters, these new powers open up a wealth of information about everyone for the U.S. government, especially in an era where Facebook has 600 million users worldwide, many of whom are very vocal with opinions and very free with divulging personal information.
The option of using words to teach and warn is more available now than at any other time in history. Journalists aside, this is the opportunity, the method and the God-given right of all people who feel that defense of life and liberty are worthy of the danger involved. All should endeavor to make the written word count, and we here at the AMERICAN FREE PRESS will continue to press forward without fear.
Frank Whalen has been a radio talk show host for the past 17 years, and worked as a consultant *