The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) is readying to monitor “hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top ‘media influencers,’” according to Bloomberg, which cites a DHS posting in search of a contractor to help build the database at issue. The publication notes that the DHS aims “to track more than 290,000 global news sources, including online, print, broadcast, cable, and radio, as well as trade and industry publications, local, national and international outlets, and social media.”
The contracting company that DHS is seeking will have “24/7 access to a password protected, media influencer database, including journalists, editors, correspondents, social media influencers, bloggers etc.” in order to “identify any and all media coverage related to the Department of Homeland Security or a particular event.”
Of particular interest in the government’s call for contractor bids is the emphasis on influencers, for which DHS is seeking to compile “present contact details and any other information that could be relevant, including publications this influencer writes for, and an overview of the previous coverage published by the media influencer.”
According to Bloomberg, “The request comes amid heightened concern about accuracy in media and the potential for foreigners to influence U.S. elections and policy through ‘fake news.’” As such, the 290,000-plus global news outlets and social media influencers of interest are almost certainly (but potentially not limited to) those operating within the political sphere.
The real question, of course, as noted by Forbes, “is what the government plans to do with the information it compiles.” A few of Forbes’ suspicions: “Will those on the DHS media database be questioned more harshly coming in and out of the country? Will they have trouble getting visas to go to certain countries for their own reporting or personal vacations? Worse?”
As of now, DHS has not provided a comment on that beyond the contractor posting.