By: Madison McQueen
For about the last decade America’s Central Intelligence Agency has taken to social media to determine potential terrorist action. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. God knows that some people in this world could be potentially dumb enough to announce their terrorist plots to their followers on social media, but there are also people who occasionally post an unwise comment every now and again for a laugh. It’s when obvious jokes are taken too seriously that this surveillance of social media goes too far.
Recently, the CIA has begun to invest in various companies that would help the organization to collect information from social media across all platforms. Now, at a glance, this funded data collection seems like a horrible idea. Everyone has heard stories of tourists coming to America and being mistaken for terrorists.
One of the most notable cases occurred back in January of 2012 when a couple of English friends flying in for a holiday of partying were promptly escorted into a holding room when they landed at the Los Angeles International Airport. A short time prior to entering the U.S., Leigh Van Bryan had made two posts on Twitter saying: “Free this week for a quick gossip/prep before I go and destroy America?” and, “3 weeks today, we’re totally in LA pissing people off on Hollywood Blvd and diggin’ Marilyn Monroe up!”
While these tweets are surely unwise to post shortly before entering a country that has detained foreigners before for similar posts, the CIA did not do their research before detaining this man and his friend for roughly 72 hours. In England “destroy” is slang for partying and the digging up Marilyn Monroe comment was purely sarcastic as they would have seen if they had read any of his other posts at the time. Even if authorities still believed these two were terrorists after conducting thorough background searches, a few hours of interrogation would have shown they were simply tourists. Holding them for 72 hours is a little much for a few stupid tweets.
I don’t think the CIA should use social media to spot terrorists and do not see this investment paying off. The CIA would need to sift through the information more carefully to avoid any more instances of wrongful detainment if they keep at this idea of using social media against its users. If the CIA stepped up its game and set more guidelines for what could be considered suspicious behavior and employed more people to work alongside the tech gathering the information, maybe this could be a good thing.
“British Tourists’ Tweets Get Them Detained Upon Landing in Los Angeles.” NewsFeed British Tourists Tweets Get Them Denied Entry to the US Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
“CIA Tech Firm Seeks More Social Media Spying.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
“Photo Credit.” N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.
“The Secret Government Rulebook For Labeling You a Terrorist.” The Intercept. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr. 2016.