How Social Media is Being Used by the Government
April 20, 2007 – U.S. senator Barack Obama sends his first tweet: “Thinking we’re only one signature away from ending the war in Iraq”
- A little premature and optimistic, but government leaders and agencies are increasingly harnessing the powers of social media to both connect with the public and extract information.
GOVERNMENTAL USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA: EXAMPLES
- The U.K. police set up a dedicated social media task force to ensure the safety of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
- Using information that was publicly accessible, they followed known rabble-rousers on Twitter, setting up streams to monitor conversations about the games and planned protests.
- Authorities were able to dialogue with antagonists in real time and, in some cases, pinpoint the exact location of troublemakers using geolocation features.
- • During the 2012 U.S. presidential election, Twitter developed a brand new political analysis tool called the Twindex, which gauged online conversations and sentiment around Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
- • As Election Day approached — and most traditional polls had Romney pulling ahead — the Twindex showed Obama trending sharply upward in all 12 swing-states.
- • Preparing for the zombie apocalypse: The Centers for Disease Control recently terrified readers with a blog post titled Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse. “[Where] do zombies come from, and why do they love eating brains so much?” the author asks, before listing ways to prepare for the inevitable.
- • The post, which also explained how to get ready for real emergencies, attracted more than 1,200 comments, with a lively debate ensuing between readers on the finer points of zombie culture and emergency preparedness.
Earthquake Detection and Notification:1
- • When a 5.9-magnitude earthquake shook the Northeast in 2011, many New Yorkers learned about it on Twitter — seconds before the shaking actually started.
- • Tweets from people at the epicenter near Washington, D.C., outpaced the quake itself, providing a unique early warning system. (Conventional alerts, by contrast, can take two to 20 minutes to be issued.)
- • Seeking to take advantage of these crowdsourced warnings, the U.S. Geological Survey is hard at work on TED, short for Twitter Earthquake Dispatch.
Creating a Social City:
- • New York City created 280 social profiles to become one of the most connected cities worldwide – connecting citizens to the people who run their subways, fix their potholes, and shield their health and property.
- • Hurricane Sandy – Morris County, New Jersey used social media to disseminate information and respond to citizen questions when phone services was down due to the storm.
- • The top status update on Facebook for morning of October 30th was “we are ok” – people informing family and friends how they weathered the storm
- • City of Vancouver uses Twitter to notify residents the night before garbage and recycling collection to address the problem of a confusing schedule.
VERIFYING GOVERNMENT SOCIAL MEDIA ACCOUNTS:
- • Federal government offers a service to verify if a social media account is authentic and an officially managed account of the US Government.
- • They can verify accounts such as Facebook, Flickr, Foursquare, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Scribd, Slideshare, Storify, Tumbler, Twitter, Ustream, Vimeo, Youtube, and others.
WHY USE SOCIAL MEDIA?2
- • Real-time, two-way conversations between Government and the Public
- • Giving everyone a voice – until recently, communication with any government body was limited to phone, mail, or in person and none guaranteed a response.
- • Transparency – quick responses to issues, problems, and public questions
- • Efficiency – getting the word out on important programs and policies quickly and effectively
IN THE NEWS:
- • Stands for: Panning Tool for Resource Integration, Synchronization, and Management
- • A data tool designed to collect and process foreign intelligence that passes through American servers
- • Government claims that PRISM is authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978
• Information about every domestic phone call made by every Verizon Customer in the US collected by the National Security Administration (NSA)– Information collected includes:
- o Phone number dialed
- o Time and duration of the call
- o Information about the cell phone tower used to make each call – this allows location tracking
- o Likely that other major telecommunications providers participate in the program – not just Verizon
- o Info is collected in a vast database where access is strictly limited – 22 Obama administration officials have the authority to authorize searches of the database and about 200 Americans have had their phone numbers queried
- o Section 215 of the Patriot Act – gives the government the power to obtain any “tangible thing” from third parties relevant to a terrorist investigation
- o Many argue that the intended use of Section 215 Orders is for information relevant to specific investigations.
- o The Fourth Amendment requires search warrants to be specific about who is to be searched and what information is to be seized.
- o There’s nothing specific about the Verizon order. However, the government is likely to cite a 1979 Supreme Court ruling holding that the Fourth Amendment doesn’t apply when the government seeks calling records.
- o The Verizon order was good for three months, so presumably the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court reviews the orders periodically. Order is broad – it doesn’t contain the kind of details that would allow the courts to find specific abuses.
Fiber Optic Eavesdropping4
- • Alleged optical splitters were being used to copy data flowing through AT&T’s network and sending it to a secret room NSA-controlled room in a San Francisco AT&T facility.
- • It is not known which cables the NSA has tapped
- • Even if every fiber optic cable in the world was tapped it would not be able to read encrypted data – the most popular Internet services (including most webmail providers) are increasingly using encryption.