One wonders exactly what the Trump administration seeks to do with this database once they have it in place, or are they just teeing it up for the next administration that will enter the White House?
Whatever they are going to do with it, they have not said, but according to a FedBizOpps.gov post, the Department of Homeland Security is requesting “Media Monitoring Services.”
The Request for Information’s scope is that the contractor who will be employed shall provide the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Acquisition Division (NPPD) and the Office of the Under Secretary (OUS) with traditional and social media monitoring and communications solutions.
We know that they will be monitoring by the title, but their objective is also plainly stated.
Services shall enable NPPD/OUS to monitor traditional news sources as well as social media, identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event. Services shall provide media comparison tools, design and rebranding tools, communication tools, and the ability to identify top media influencers.
NPPD/OUS has a critical need to incorporate these functions into their programs in order to better reach Federal, state, local, tribal and private partners.
According to the request, there are six tasks the contractor will provide.
⦁ 2.1 Task One: Online & Social Media Monitoring
Ability to track global online sources for coverage relevant to Washington and the six media hubs:
⦁ Ability to track > 290,000 global news sources
⦁ Ability to track online, print, broadcast, cable, radio, trade and industry publications, local sources, national/international outlets, traditional news sources, and social media
⦁ Ability to track media coverage in > 100 languages, including Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Translation function to instantly translate these articles to English.
⦁ Ability to create up to 20 searches with each unlimited keywords
⦁ Unlimited coverage per search (no cap on coverage)
⦁ Ability to change the searches at keywords at any given time
⦁ Ability to create unlimited data tracking, statistical breakdown, and graphical analyses on any coverage on an ad-hoc basis
2.2 Task Two: Media Intelligence and Benchmarking Dashboard Platform
24/7 Access to a password protected, online platform for users to access:
Overview of search results in terms of online articles and social media conversations
Customized and Interactive Dashboard that provide real-time monitoring, analysis, and benchmark of media coverage.
Ability to analyze the media coverage in terms of content, volume, sentiment, geographical spread, top publications, media channels, reach, AVE, top posters, influencers, languages, momentum, circulation.
Ability to select time-period of analysis: per day, week, month, and selected dates
Ability to build media lists based on beat, location, outlet type/size, and journalist role
Automated weekly overview of these dashboards sent via email
2.3 Task Three: Email Alerts
Daily email alerts with new search results:
Ability to customize these email alerts per user
2.4 Task Four: Access to Mobile app
24/7 Access to a password protected, mobile app for users to access:
Overview of search results in terms of online articles and social media conversations
Ability to view coverage written in Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Ability to access English translation of this coverage within the mobile app.
Ability to set up push notifications to be alerted of new search results
Ability to forward media coverage via email, sms or what’s app
2.5 Task Five: Media Engagement
24/7 Access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.
Ability to browse the database based on location, beat and type of influencer
Ability to perform ad-hoc searches on the database based on keywords, concepts, or using Boolean search terms
Ability to perform searches in other languages including Arabic, Chinese and Russian, in order to find influencers that publish in these languages.
For each influencer found, present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer
Ability to create unlimited media lists for specific topics
Ability to export the contact details of the media influencers per media list.
Ability to send out unlimited press releases via the platform and to monitor the open-rate of the press releases send out.
Ability to manage contacts
2.6 Task Six: Customer Service
The contractor shall provide access to an implementation consultant who is an experienced trainer and implementer and whose goal is to prepare NPPD/OUS to go live with the solution and provide best practices. The contractor shall work closely with NPPD/OUS project managers throughout the implementation process.
Ongoing Support: The contractor shall manage technical requests and issues through a ticketing system via phone, email, or online during regular business hours in the U.S Eastern timezone. In addition, 24-hour emergency online support must be available during off-business hours.
While one could understand how knowledge of what America’s enemies are promoting, and thus would want to use that knowledge to fight against such propaganda, it becomes a little more disturbing when American outlets, journalists, talking heads and bloggers.
Since no law can be written to restrict the freedom of the press and no law can be written to restrict free speech, American journalists, bloggers and news outlets should not be a part of this database. There is no need for the executive branch to be monitoring them unless they are committing a crime. If so, monitoring is not what needs to be taking place, but rather justice imposed.
Perhaps the timing of this is related to the whole “Russian involvement in the elections” campaign over the past year. Again, one could understand that, but why start up a database on American journalists, bloggers and “media influencers”? It seems to me to be way out of bounds if those persons have not committed a crime.
This is what leads to some serious questions that DHS needs to answer, not should answer, needs to answer.
Michelle Fabio writes for Forbes on the subject:
Within the context of increasing concerns over “fake news” and foreign interference in elections, an action such as the DHS’s database might seem, at first glance, to be a sensible approach.
Unfortunately, increasing government encroachment on the freedom of the press is the sinister backdrop to all of this. Freedom House, which has monitored the status of the press for nearly 40 years, recently concluded that global media freedom has reached its lowest level in the past 13 years. The independent watchdog organization blames “new threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies” as well as “further crackdowns on independent media in authoritarian countries like Russia and China.” And then it goes one step further.
“But it is the far-reaching attacks on the news media and their place in a democratic society by Donald Trump, first as a candidate and now as president of the United States, that fuel predictions of further setbacks in the years to come,” the report said.
Could the DHS media database be such a setback?
Possibly, and it’s not even the first time potential regulation of journalists has drifted across the American political scene.
Last October, an Indiana lawmaker proposed that journalists be licensed. Representative Jim Lucas’s bill was mostly a publicity stunt, but could this DHS action be a way for the government to keep track of American and foreign journalists as well as “citizen journalists,” threatening not only the freedom of the press but also individual freedom of speech?
The real question, of course, is what the government plans to do with the information it compiles, and there’s been no comment on that beyond what is in the posting, which, by the way, has interest from at least seven companies. Will those on the DHS media database be questioned more harshly coming in and out of the country? Will they have trouble getting visas to go to certain countries for their own reporting or personal vacations? Worse?
By the way, the majority of the media is controlled by the Central Intelligence Agency and six corporations anyway. So, this is probably not about them. It’s probably about outlets like ours that challenge their narrative or call them out, Democrat and Republican, on their unconstitutional and criminal behavior.
Responses are due April 13.
According to Big Law Business, “Seven companies, mainly minority- or women-owned small businesses, have already expressed interest in becoming a vendor for the contract.”
With the sellouts of the Constitution we’ve seen recently by the Trump administration on the Second Amendment and the omnibus bill, I’d say we need to remain pretty vigilant on this database and demand they give us an answer as to why it is needed. Our government has demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with information in the first place. The most recent example has been the Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz. Why should we trust them monitoring the press?