BPD Set to Monitor Locals Social Media (or “Creep Social Media” as I Like to Say)

According to a Boston Globe article, the Boston Police Department plans to purchase new software that will be able to search websites, blogs, social media (basically anything on the Internet), to screen for criminal activity and public safety threats.

However, as with any change in the public space, there is already pushback from civil liberty groups calling it “alarming” and were angry that there was a “lack of transparency in selecting the software” according to the Globe. There also were worries that it poses a threat to free speech and privacy.

Since everything on the Internet is already public and viewable, I think these “fears” are unfounded and useless (not to be politic-y or anything like it). Everyone is educated on the dangers of over-posting online, and how it can impact your life away from the computer. Posting about criminal activity or threats of any type is asking to get caught or reported to the authorities, and this software just cuts out the middle man’s responsibility of reporting. The software can create a virtual “fence” that sends alerts if a post is added containing any of the targeted search criteria.

The main complaint that can be debated is that the Boston Police did not ask the citizens “whether we want our tax dollars spent on something like this,” according to Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty Program at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. BPD is planning to spend up to $1.4 million on the software. According to the Boston Globe, they intend to pick a vendor by December 5th.

Crockford believes that the groups can potentially target Black Lives Matter, members of the Tea Party, and anyone who make not agree with the government.

Maybe it’s political exhaustion stemming from the last year, but if this software does what it’s supposed to, I’m all for it. I’m not going to complain about an extra layering keeping me safe. Sure, taxpayers were not asked to approve it. However, there are many programs that taxpayers are not directly asked for input. If that were the case, voting would be a much more grueling process for all involved.

 

Reporting in the 21st century

If you had told a full-time journalist ten years ago that they’d soon be reporting the news using “social media” or “apps”, I’m sure most of them would have thought you were crazy and ignored it.

Growing up as a “digital native”, I’ve only known the world with Internet. I don’t know how to read a map to get from point A to point B, I’ve never written a friend a letter (besides thank-you notes to my grandparents), and I’ve only ever used physical encyclopedias in lower grade school. I don’t even remember my parents having dial-up for that matter.

So when Tory Starr came to class saying her job title was “Director of Social Media” at WGBH, I never gave it a second thought. To me, it seems like a cool, cutting-edge job to have given the way journalism is going.

Every form of social media is involved in the news cycle in one way or another. And although you may not get all of the people, all of time, you can get SOME of the people, SOME of the time (which may just be enough).

“Within each of these platforms, the ecosystem is so big. You’re not going to reach every, or most people maybe, but there are opportunities,” Tory said.

The more I think about this, the more it makes sense to me. Facebook has over a billion active daily users. You reach only .5% of these, and that is still over 5 million people. Who can then send it to another .5%, who can show it to another .5%, and so on. The room for growth seems almost infinite. When she called Facebook king, she was extremely accurate.

However, not every platform can rival Facebook. Twitter and Snapchat are still finding their way in the digital media age, and that’s not always a bad thing. It means there’s still room for growth and changes. Storytelling isn’t going anywhere, there’s just new tools.

People in my generation joke about finding a job in the journalism field, given the current state of newspapers. After today’s class, and seeing how positions like Tory’s have evolved, I think it’s clear that there are still journalism jobs available; they’re just in new and exciting places.