Social Media Monitoring by Governments , Intellegience Agencies and Technologies Used

Among many important phenomenon happening in the world, this year, two significant people related phenomenon are happening. One is the social media frenzy has caught up almost all part of the world and  social – political unrest is unravelling various parts of the places. This year Facebook users crossed Google users in terms of numbers and time spent on. At the same time, unexpected social unrest and political regime change happened in MidEast area starting from Tunisia, Egypt and spreading across covering Libia, Yemen etc. No doubt that the advent of social media fuelled the frenzy of these political unrests which were due in many countries where either dictatorial or single person/ party rule was continued. recognizing this correlation, many such undemocratic or psuedo-democratic countries started monitoring the social media. However, it is no more limited to those countries.

In the recent weeks when protests affected Briton, the British Prime Minister David Cameron also expressed the need to monitor (and if possible curb) social media (read comments by Facebook and others in an article in Guardian ). Interesting, right? Briton is one of the great and old democracy. Around the same period, just before anti-corruption movement brought large number of Indian’s on road earlier this week, there were news that Indian government / security / intelligence agencies too wanted to have access to Facebook and Twitter.  so, the largest democracy in the world too wanted to join the social surveillance via Social Media Monitoring. In my humble opinion, it is undemocratic act.

However, I can understand the need of Social Media Monitoring for social trend, identifying terrorism or anti-social . For example, security agencies or intelligence agencies like CIA monitors many online channels (Read news on CIA ‘s investment arm investing in Visible for social media monitoring) and must be monitoring Social media too. It would help in nabbing terrorists like Osama Bin Laden as well as detecting plots like NY bombing.

How is it done? Social media like Twitter, Facebook, as well as various blogs, forums contain a wealth of information in text forms. The information is huge and difficult to correlate, moreover it is heavily text centric, complete unstructured and huge. This need has renewed great interest in text processing, text analytics and is possible through big data computing especially leveraging Hadoop like distributed computing big file systems and databases .

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