CIA actively monitors 5 million tweets every day

Big-Brother-shutterstock

As if we needed any further confirmation that Big Brother is, in fact, watching, the Associated Press reports today that the Central Intelligence Agency has an entire department devoted to monitoring Twitter and Facebook posts. In addition, the CIA briefs President Obama daily on top tweets and popular Facebook posts and trends.

The arduous task, carried out by a team known as the “Vengeful Librarians,” includes sifting through more than 5 million tweets a day. (In total, Twitter’s 100 million users publish approximately 140 million tweets every day.) Doing so has enabled the CIA to view how events in the US are being received overseas — like, say, the assassination of Osama bin Laden — as well as allowing the agency to keep tabs on international events, like the uprising in Egypt this spring.

The CIA’s social media monitoring, which is carried out by “several hundred” analysts at a facility in McLean, Virginia, and elsewhere around the US, was started on the recommendation of the 9/11 Commission as a way to bolster the agency’s counterterrorism and counterproliferation initiatives.

Monitored sources include traditional newspapers and television broadcasts, as well as social media. The focus on Twitter began in 2009 after the micro-blogging platform played a key role in the Iranian Green Revolution.

Because tweets do not always have location data tied to them, the Vengeful Librarians cannot track where exactly the majority of tweets originate. Instead, the intelligence team keeps track of what language tweets are published in. For instance, the team wanted to find out the world reaction to the death of Osama bin Laden. It found that the majority of tweets published in either Urdu (the language of Pakistan), or Chinese were mostly negative. Arabic and Turkic tweets accused Obama of being pro-Isreal. Tweets in Hebrew thought Obama’s speech was too pro-Arab.

The CIA team has also used Twitter to monitor reports of real-time events, and can focus on a few Tweeters who are publishing accurate reports. The team found that, in these situations, other Twitter users actively stamp out erroneous information when it is reported, which proves the usefulness of Twitter as a primary source for breaking news.

So, for those of you out there who forget that what you say online can often be seen by anyone, remember: in some windowless office building in Northeast Virginia, a CIA agent may be watching.

[Image via Benjamin Haas/Shutterstock]

Product Review

Meet Z6, the breakout star in Nikon's new mirrorless lineup

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Gaming

Where we droppin’ (presents)? Perfect ‘Fortnite’ gifts for the fans in your life

Chances are someone on your holiday shopping list is a fan of Fortnite. As the most popular game on the planet, there are plenty of Fortnite-themed gift options available for purchase in stores and online. Here are the best ones we found.
Gaming

How do Nintendo Switch, Xbox One X compare to each other? We find out

The Nintendo Switch is innovative enough to stand apart from traditional consoles, but could it become your primary gaming system? How does the Switch stack up against the Xbox One?
Deals

Check out the best Xbox One deals and bundles for December 2018

Microsoft's consoles are just as capable of streaming movies as they are of playing the latest games. Check out our top Xbox One deals and bundles, which include new and upcoming triple-A games like Battlefield V and Fallout 76.
Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."
Computing

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.
Business

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Computing

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.
Social Media

Walkie-talkie voice messaging finally comes to Instagram

In its latest grab from messaging apps, Instagram now lets you send walkie-talkie style voice messages. Apps such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and iMessage have offered the feature for some time.
Social Media

‘YouTube Rewind 2018’ is about to become its most disliked video ever

YouTube is about to achieve a record it really doesn't want — that of "most-disliked video." Yes, its annual recap of featuring popular YouTubers has gone down really badly this year.