The Secret Service is in the market for software that scans social media posts and is able to sleuth out sarcasm.
The federal agency posted a work order soliciting proposals for a social media analytics tool for its public affairs office. Among other requirements, the software should have the ability to analyze statistics in real-time, search content in numerous languages, probe old Twitter data, identify social media influencers, recognize trends, and segment data by audience and geography, according to the Request for Proposal.
The sought-after function that has drawn media scrutiny is the ability to detect “sarcasm or false positives” in social media posts. The software would be used only for public relations efforts and not for monitoring threats against the president or others who receive Secret Service protection, an agency spokesman told The Hill.
“We monitor news stories about the Secret Service, just like any other public affairs office would,” Ed Donovan told the website in June. He described the sarcasm filter as “an attempt not to drink from a fire hose of social media stuff.”
The Secret Service was created in 1865, the same year the Civil War ended, in order to investigate counterfeit currency. Since then, its operations have expanded to include computer and telecommunications fraud, false documentation and money laundering, among other crimes. Presidential security was added to the agency’s responsibilities following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901.
The agency’s more than 6,000 employees include about 1,300 uniformed officers and 3,200 special agents, according to its website. During 2013, the Secret Service screened 2.4 million individuals at events involving the president or other officials and family members who receive protective services. The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, also reported screening nearly 1.3 million pieces of mail destined for the White House.
Worldwide, about 500 million tweets are sent daily across more than 35 languages, Twitter reports. Facebook, meanwhile, puts its average number of daily users at nearly 830 million.
The Secret Service opened its own Twitter account in May 2011 and had sent about 600 tweets as of early December 2014.
Tweeting threats against the president already has brought several Twitter users to the attention of the Secret Service, The New York Times reported in July 2013. In one case, an Alabama man was sentenced to a year in prison for posting a series of death threats, according to the newspaper.
Twitter recently reported that it received more than 2,000 requests for user account information from governments worldwide during the first six months of 2014. By comparison, there were about 1,400 such requests during 2013.