The U.S. National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) will begin creating a database to track and monitor hundreds of thousands of news outlets, journalists, bloggers, and "social media influencers," in the latest Trump-world development of what sounds like a bad dystopian novel.
If you've never heard of the National Protection and Programs Directorate, don't be alarmed, few have. If you think it sounds like something out of a World War II era spy novel, or "Nineteen Eighty-Four," you're right.
Bloomberg Law reports the Dept. of Homeland Security is "seeking a contractor that can help it monitor traditional news sources as well as social media and identify 'any and all' coverage related to the agency or a particular event, according to a request for information released April 3."
That request for information is a six-page document written in excellent government-speak that you can access via this page on the federal government's General Services Administration's website.
"The data to be collected," Bloomberg continues, "includes a publication’s 'sentiment' as well as geographical spread, top posters, languages, momentum, and circulation. No value for the contract was disclosed."
Among the required services is "the ability to identify top media influencers," along with:
- 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.
"The request," Bloomberg explains, "comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through 'fake news.'"
Forbes calls it, "today’s installment of 'I’m Not Terrified, You Are,'" and says thew details of the posting "are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide."
"If you think the idea of the U.S. government's compiling and monitoring a list of media professionals and 'top media influencers' is a potential threat to democracy, now would be the perfect time to call your local and congressional representatives to let them know how much you value a free press and the freedom of speech, just in case they've forgotten."
Combating fake news sounds like a good idea, although it's unclear what role the federal government should play in that. Compiling, monitoring, and tracking a database of journalists and social media influencers sounds disturbing and threatening to the First Amendment, at the very least. (Also, why not just use Google?)
The National Protection and Programs Directorate is headed by the Under Secretary of Homeland Security for National Protection and Programs. The job has been vacant since 2017.