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The US Secret Service Targeting Sarcasm On Social Media

New forms of online control being implemented

Following on from the Egyptian government tightening its stance on social media, it seems the US government are also seeking software, but of a slightly different kind. The US Secret Service is currently looking to purchase software that can detect sarcasm on social media. Yes, you read that correctly.

Source: cmpmiami.com

Whilst law enforcement agencies monitor social media to look out for specific unrest, the government has used social media to try and influence the public and get its messages across. It is a kind of indoctrination via the internet, and now the US government is looking to take it one step further.

Seeking unrest and detecting sarcasm are two very different things though, and the complexities of the latter can be very difficult. Some are worried by the possibility of the government potentially arresting people for positing alleged threats through this new system, as the the line between sarcasm and sincerity can be close and far.

Nextgov.com first reported the request by the Secret Service on Monday, and a spokesman for the service said the request would allow the agency to create its own system for monitoring Twitter. This being its own presence on social media and also important topics that trend on the networking site.

“Our objective is to automate our social media monitoring process,” Ed Donovan stated. “Twitter is what we analyse. This is real-time stream analysis. The ability to detect sarcasm and false positives is just one of 16 or 18 things we are looking at.”

If the Secret Service confirm the purchase of software that has the capabilities of detecting sarcasm, we could be heading into a digital age where you can be arrested for telling a joke. A teenager living in Texas was arrested in 2013 after posting a sarcastic message about shooting up “a school full of kids” on Facebook. Also, a Twitter user in the Netherlands was arrested in April for tweeting a bomb threat to American Airlines, which she later claimed was a joke.

Source: loudclick.com

Now these circumstances are very extreme, and posed a threat to the safety of many, but software that can detect these kinds of threats also bring a culture of paranoia. It also gives the sense of the government taking a parental role on social media, ticking off those who choose to joke around from time-to-time.

If this state of surveillance heightens further, it could create larger unrest than the one that the governments across the world are currently worried about. On the other side of the coin there is an argument that the Secret Service is just trying to ensure the safety of millions, and the arrests that have been made prove this, despite the claims that the threats made were jokes.

This software will bring technical problems to the table for the US government, but if they get it right, the citizens of the United States of America will have to be careful when positing sarcastic content online.


Alex is an English Literature and Sociology undergraduate whose love for written word has led him to write about some obscure topics in his time. Currently a content writer at Social Media Frontiers, be sure to follow him @AlexSatSMF.

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The US Secret Service Targeting Sarcasm On Social Media Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, June 09, 2014 Rating: 5
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