Opinion Monitoring Software
A consortium of major universities, using Homeland Security Department money, is developing software that would let the government monitor negative opinions of the United States or its leaders in newspapers and other publications overseas.
Such a "sentiment analysis" is intended to identify potential threats to the nation, security officials said.
This kind of thing could actually be a good idea. For example, it could be used to help the administration understand how we are viewed by people in other countries, and make us more responsible players on the world stage as a result.
On the other hand, this kind of thing could also be used to track critics of the U.S., and to aid in media manipulation. It is not unusual for government leaders to punish reporters who do not provide favorable coverage by excluding them from important events and key briefings, and this could facilitate that. At the very least, it would have a chilling effect on worldwide freedom of the press.
Note also that the project director says that the system would not extend to domestic news sources:
It could take several years for such a monitoring system to be in place, said Joe Kielman, coordinator of the research effort. The monitoring would not extend to United States news, Mr. Kielman said.
But a few paragraphs later:
The articles in the database include work from many American newspapers and news wire services, including The Miami Herald and The New York Times, as well as foreign sources like Agence France-Presse and The Dawn, a newspaper in Pakistan.
I have to admit I find the whole thing a bit too Orwellian for my tastes.
Posted on October 6, 2006 at 11:57 AM • 50 Comments