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DHS: Fears over journalist database 'fit for tin foil hat wearing ... conspiracy theorists'

The Department of Homeland Security is pushing back on reaction to reports that it's seeking access to a database of ...

Posted: Apr 7, 2018 2:34 PM
Updated: Apr 7, 2018 2:34 PM

The Department of Homeland Security is pushing back on reaction to reports that it's seeking access to a database of journalists and bloggers, arguing that the move is "standard practice."

A solicitation posted to the Federal Business Opportunities website, the main contracting website used by the federal government, outlines a number of requests from DHS related to media monitoring -- including 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week access to a "media influencer" database that would be made up of reporters, editors and bloggers.

In a Friday column that was tweeted out by the Committee to Protect Journalists, Forbes writer Michelle Fabio referred to the move as "today's installment of 'I'm Not Terrified, You Are,'" and said the details of the plan "are enough to cause nightmares of constitutional proportions, particularly as the freedom of the press is under attack worldwide."

A DHS spokesperson took to Twitter on Friday to emphasize that the request is nothing out of the ordinary.

"Despite what some reporters may suggest, this is nothing more than the standard practice of monitoring current events in the media," DHS spokesman Tyler Houlton tweeted after the Committee to Protect Journalists tweeted out a link to a Forbes article about the request. "Any suggestion otherwise is fit for tin foil hat wearing, black helicopter conspiracy theorists."

DHS is seeking a contractor that can provide "traditional and social media monitoring," which will help its national protection and programs directorate track reporting and media coverage about the department, according to the solicitation.

"Given this administration's denigration of most media outlets, I understand why the timing of this bid might look suspicious," John Kirby, a CNN military and diplomatic analyst, said in an e-mail. "But from what I can tell, this is nothing more than an attempt at media analysis. It's not at all different from what I have seen other agencies undertake to better understand the communication landscape. In fact, it would be PR malpractice not to put something like this together."

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