Here’s an update to share on your preferred social media platform: the FBI is watching.
According to a new report from the Washington Post, the FBI is going all in on social media monitoring, spending nearly $30 million dollars to prevent another January 6. Privacy watchdogs and civil liberties advocates are concerned —and they should be.
This is crazy.
The FBI has purchased 5,000 licenses to use Babel X; a supercharged web crawler made by a company called Babel Street. “The Justice Department has previously [used] Babel X…but the new contract appears to be by far the most the agency has ever shelled out for the software, and is one of the largest contracts for the software by a civilian agency,” WaPo reports.
So what does the FBI get for $30 mil and 5,000 licenses? Access to 40 online sources, including no-brainers like Instagram, fringe Korean social media platforms, and “dark web” monitoring.
“The Department of Homeland Security, county governments, law enforcement agencies and the FBI use [Babel X] to keep tabs on dangerous individuals, even when they are communicating in one of more than 200 languages, including emoji.”
“It’s both per-year the biggest I’m aware of in terms of obligation, and it’s also the fact that it’s a five-year contract,” said Jack Poulson, who runs the research advocacy group Tech Inquiry. “So if you combine those two things, it’s the biggest Babel Street contract I’m aware of.”
Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, wants a hearing. Jordan has “real concerns based on the [FBI’s] history and based on the fact that we don’t know how they’re using it and who they’re going after.”
Isn’t it obvious, Jim? Everyone. They’re going after everyone.
In their contract with Babel Street, the FBI asked to have the power to monitor: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, Deep/Dark Web, VK, Telegram, 8Kun, Discord, Gab, Parler, Reddit, Snapchat, TikTok and Weibo.
I don’t even know what most of those are —but the FBI does.
And they’re watching.