Bloomberg Law published a shocking news report last week that the Department of Homeland Security is looking into a new way of tightening control over news agencies and other ‘tin foil hat wearing’ journalists by creating a database of every blogger, reporter, and influencer in the world, and the department has already started the hiring process for a special group of people to act as watchdog for all types of news and conspiracy-related content that goes up on the internet.
Many journalists believe that the strange move is an attack against freedom of the press but DHS spokesperson has denied all speculations by calling the request a ‘standard security practice’.
A Worldwide Database on Journalists
A recent news about the Department of Homeland Security’s request to access database on all journalists, bloggers and social media influencers around the world has sparked concern among the publication industry that the government might be going too far in its fight against news agencies that Trump has often accused of spreading ‘fake news’.
The report surfaced after Bloomberg Law stumbled upon a job advertisement posted by Department of Homeland Security, seeking out contractors for a media monitoring project. According to the job description, the responsibilities of the contractors included tracking almost 300,000 news publications and sources worldwide as well as identifying all media coverage that involves Trump administration and the Department of Homeland Security itself.
The Job Description
The department is also looking for agencies that are able to track content in all languages and translate it into English instantly to interpret the meaning and intention behind a specific international coverage.
Journalists and other media personnel say that the timing of the DHS request seems extremely suspicious with the Trump administration closing in on certain mainstream news agencies which have often been identified by the President as ‘the enemy of the people’. Could this be yet another attack against freedom of the press?
Response from the Press Secretary
Press Secretary Tyler Houlton from the Homeland Security responded to speculations by posting a tweet on Friday afternoon admitting the reports that DHS was recruiting contractors to create a journalist database for security purposes. Houlton explained that the move was nothing but standard practice to help the department monitor news and social media content and look out for any suspicious activities.
He also added that anyone who believes that there is any other sinister motivation behind the department’s decision is nothing but a ‘tin foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist’. However, when asked about what other kinds of databases existed in DHS’ records and how the department planned on using them, the Press Secretary refused to comment.
Diplomatic Analysts Aren’t Concerned
Although paranoid journalists and news publications are suspicious about the Homeland Security’s motive behind the move, others are arguing that most governments around the world collect press-tracking databases for security and public relation purposes.
Moreover, smaller independent PR agencies and media communication firms also keep their own databases of similar information in order to reach out to journalists and publications. Media-tracking tools are also used by these public relations agencies in order to assess the effectiveness of their campaigns and see how media is talking about their clients.
It’s true that DHS isn’t the first or the only government agency to gather information on the media although given Trump’s hatred towards certain media outlets, it is understandable why the move has sparked concern among many, says diplomatic analyst John Kirby.
Other analysts agree with Kirby that such international relations practices are commonplace around the world and shouldn’t be a cause for any suspicion. On the contrary, it would be considered PR malpractice, had the government not taken such a step.