The Department of Homeland Security has begun implementing a strategy to gather and analyze intelligence about security threats from public social media posts, reports NBCNews. The goal is to build a warning system to detect the sort of posts that appeared to predict an attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, but were missed or ignored by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. The focus is not on the identity of the posters but rather on gleaning insights about potential security threats based on emerging narratives and grievances. DHS officials have been consulting with social media companies, private companies and nonprofit groups that analyze open-source social media data. Law enforcement officers and intelligence analysts are legally entitled to examine — without warrants — what people say openly on Twitter, Facebook and other public social media forums, just as they can take in information from reading newspapers.
But civil liberties groups generally oppose government monitoring of social media, arguing that it doesn’t produce much intelligence and risks chilling free speech. DHS officials say that the counterterrorism case for analyzing social media is strong and that they believe social media can be a useful predictor of threats. While DHS goal is to exploit social media for tips, leads and trends, many social media posts are made anonymously, and in some cases warrants signed by judges would be required for the government to obtain records revealing the identities of the posters. DHS officials said that would be the responsibility of the FBI in a criminal investigation.