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Report: CIA funding social media surveillance and data-mining companies

The CIA is investing in several tech companies that focus on social media data mining and surveillance.

The companies, which provide unique tools to mine data on Instagram and Twitter, are receiving funds through the CIA’s venture capital firm, In-Q-Tel, according to a document obtained by The Intercept. These specialist tech companies include Dataminr, Geofeedia, PATHAR, and TransVoyant.

The CIA is working to integrate the tools created by those firms into its agencywide intelligence capabilities as it seeks to target extremists and radicals, including accounts tied to ISIS, on social media.

Dataminr, like its counterparts, uses Twitter data to visualize and track trends for law enforcement agencies and hedge funds. Geofeedia similarly works with local authorities, and other clients, to monitor breaking news events in real-time via geotagged social media messages on Twitter and Instagram.

PATHAR’s Dunami tool is currently being used by the FBI to track Facebook and the aforementioned platforms for potential signs of radicalization, networks of association, and centers of influence. TransVoyant, which previosusly worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, provides a comparable service that mines Twitter data to pinpoint supposed decision-makers. The firm claims it can monitor social media to spot “gang incidents” and threats to journalists.

Despite acknowledging an investment from In-Q-Tel, all of the firms declined to comment on their association with the CIA when approached by The Intercept.

The companies in question were noted as participating in a February “CEO Summit” in San Jose, backed by the CIA’s venture capital firm along with other businesses reportedly tied to In-Q-Tel’s increasing portfolio.

The CIA, along with global governments, has spoken in the past of monitoring social media for threats from terrorists, including groups and individuals associated with ISIS. The increasing pressure from law enforcement agencies and global governments forced Twitter to block over 100,000 accounts suspected of promoting terrorism earlier this year.

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