As of April 3, 2018 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has started the search for a contractor to work on what they call a “media monitoring project.”
The DHS along with the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) and the Office of the Under Secretary (OUS), are working to compile a database to gather and monitor information concerning the public activities of media professionals.
The database would collect information on “top media influencers.” Information such as current contact information, publications the influencer has, or has ever, written for and political sentiment.
The way the database appears to define “media influencers” includes everyone from journalists and editors, bloggers, on air reporters, correspondents, podcasters and even social media “influencers.”
As part of their media monitoring project, the DHS wants to monitor over 290,000 global news networks and social media posts in over 100 languages. The database will not be limited to one medium, but will rather monitor “any and all media coverage.” This includes print, cable, radio, local and traditional news outlets and social media platforms, to name a few.
Currently seven different companies are competing to create the media monitoring database. The company that ultimately receives the contract will be expected to provide a password protected database accessible 24/7, with the ability to search by location, beat and type of influencer.
The reasoning behind gathering the public activities of media professions, is to stop the spread of fake news and, as the DHS puts it “[the] 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.”
The reason DHS has given for seeking to create the database has been questioned by many people and news outlets. A few independent news outlets, such as Forbes.com, are concerned that the database will infringe upon constitutional rights such as the freedom of press.
In response to some of these questions, Tyler Q. Houlton, the Press Secretary for the DHS, Tweeted this:
“Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media. Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists.”
The DHS has yet to select the contractor to build the database, and has yet to release much of any explanation beyond their original statement regarding the need the NPPD and OUS have for it.