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Secret Service seeks 'social media analysis tool' to monitor Twitter users

Secret Service seeks tool to monitor sarcasm on Twitter.
Secret Service seeks tool to monitor sarcasm on Twitter.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

On Monday, the Secret Service announced that it is seeking to purchase a social media analysis tool capable of tracking Twitter users in real time. According to the solicitation document, the tool should also be capable of performing “sentiment analysis,” “influencer identification,” providing “access to historical Twitter data,” have the “ability to detect sarcasm,” and create “heat maps” showing user trends.

Additionally, the software should be capable of sending notifications to users, apparently in the event someone issues a tweet the Secret Service may deem to be "threatening."

"There have been numerous instances where Twitter users have been harassed by the Secret Service after making anti-Obama or anti-government statements that could not be construed at threatening," Infowars' Paul Joseph Watson said. "The Secret Service’s acquisition of more sophisticated tracking software will only serve to make these incidents more common."

Watson cited the example of Tom Francois, an outspoken critic of President Obama, who received a visit from Secret Service agents saying they wanted to “take a look around” his house. In June 2013, Examiner.com's Harriet Baldwin reported that Francois complied with their request and signed an "Authorization To Review Medical and Mental Health Records."

According to Baldwin, the Secret Service was armed with a thick file filled with screenshots of posts made by Francois, and asked if he had intentions of "whacking" Obama.

"Of course not," Francois reportedly said. "I wish him no harm. I disagree with his policies and actions and I make no bones about it. It's my First Amendment Right and I intend to exercise it."

Agents left the premises, having found nothing to implicate Francois, but warned they could be back for his guns.

"This administration is spying on Americans, via the NSA and targeting Tea Party and religious groups for voter suppression via the IRS," Baldwin wrote at the time. "Now- Obama's Secret Service is paying personal "visits"- on law abiding citizens? This is TYRANNY!"

Watson noted that others have received visits from the Secret Service over items posted on social media sites.

On Monday, Nextgov said the Department of Homeland Security "got in trouble with lawmakers and civil liberties groups for a social media program that would work, in part, by having employees create fake usernames and profiles to spy on other users."

According to a document obtained in March, Homeland Security also monitors certain media outlets like the Drudge Report, along with social media outlets like Facebook.

“Your tweets and Facebook posts and other social media discussions are being monitored by the Department of Homeland Security,” added investigative journalist Jason Leopold.