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Political Opinions and Social Networks: Guess Who Wants to Listen In?
By: Christine Geraci
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Everybody has that one Facebook friend. You know — the one who always stokes the political flames with their status updates? I have a couple of those friends. I used to bite every time, and get sucked into seemingly endless political debates with people whose opinions I could never sway. Now I just ignore them or, if they're particularly obnoxious, hide them from my news feed. 

Turns out this was a good move, and not just because it protects my sanity.

We learned Thursday that if the Department of Homeland Security has its way, those politically charged updates and conversations will be monitored and documented, particularly if they cast the government in a negative light.  
 
A study from the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) reports that the Department of Homeland Security paid $11 million for a system to monitor Facebook and Twitter status updates, as well as comment feeds on news sites, for "comments that 'adversely reflect' on the government." 
 
Some members of Congress are very disturbed by the move, saying it would threaten free speech. 
 
When we covered this story a while back, we asked if the government's desire to monitor for security purposes was any different from social networks themselves monitoring data to sell to third parties in search of marketing insights. 
 
In the case of the latter, the intent is clear. You may not agree with it, but at least you can understand what's happening: The information you serve up is sold to companies that, in turn, want to sell you things. 
 
We maintain you shouldn't be surprised by the Department of Homeland Security's move. But we do agree that it comes off as a bit more menacing, primarily because no one yet knows what would happen when such a system flagged a disparaging comment. How would the Department of Homeland Security react? Would there be any consequences for the commenter? 
 
Until these questions are answered, people have the right to be cautious — just like they've been when it comes to the practice of selling user information to third parties. 
 
What do you think of the government's effort to monitor social networks?


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About the Author
Christine Geraci is the Social Media/Promotions Specialist at MVP Health Care in Schenectady, NY. Connect with her on Twitter @christinegeraci.
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