The Secret Service is looking to buy software that can detect sarcasm on social media. Whatever. We're sure it will work.
More specifically, the orders ask for a long list of specific tools, including the ability to identify social media influencers, analyze data streams in real time, access old Twitter data and use heat maps. And it wants the software to be compatible with Internet Explorer 8. (The agency is asking for a blanket purchasing agreement over a five-year period, which shows just how often the government updates its technology.)
Then there's the request to sift through the heaps of snark on Twitter and other social media services: "Ability to detect sarcasm and false positives," the request reads.
Think you're up to the job? You're probably not, but the Secret Service is accepting proposals until June 9 at 5 p.m.
The Department of Homeland Security was sued by an online privacy group in 2011 for records on its social media monitoring program. The documents showed that analysts were instructed to create reports on certain "items of interest" that were found in social media searches, including policy directives and debates related to the department. A House panel called hearings after it was revealed that analysts combed Facebook and other social media sites for public sentiment about possibly transferring Guantanamo detainees to a prison in Michigan.
Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said the request would allow the Secret Service to create its own system for monitoring Twitter – both its own footprint in social media and the important issues that are trending on the social network. For example, Donovan said, when people were holding purple tickets to the 2009 inauguration and were trapped inside a tunnel under the Capitol, unable to get through security gates, the Secret Service could have, perhaps, done something about it with the right information.
Donovan said the agency uses FEMA Twitter analytics right now and needs its own.
Detecting sarcasm is just a small feature of that monitoring, he said.
“Our objective is to automate our social media monitoring process. Twitter is what we analyze. 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. We are looking for the ability to quantity our social media outreach," he said. "We aren’t looking solely to detect sarcasm."
Carol Leonnig contributed to this report.