The UK government has reportedly awarded cross-Whitehall private contracts to technology firms that will allow them to monitor social media and blog posts made by the public.
The contract came less than a week after whistleblower Edward Snowden accused the government of attempting to secretly pass a law that would enable GCHQ to spy on the public.
Media reports said the social media monitoring deal would see five firms providing officials, ministers, and advisers with real-time information about certain keywords and topics that people are discussing on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other social media sites.
Although the government has monitored clippings from newspapers, this is the first time that it has publicised its desire to monitor the social media feeds.
Meanwhile, the contract documents will also allow the tech firms to ramp up the social media monitoring they perform in times of crisis, although there is no clear definition of what can be classified as such.
“The supplier shall provide increased monitoring, coverage, resource and support to the contracting body in the event of heightened public interest or crisis situation,” said the contracts.
The Cabinet Office said that the government has always tracked social media, and the new contracts are simply a way to get more value for money.
“Departments have always monitored social media but this agreement means they can find the most appropriate way of doing this at the best price, ensuring good value for money for the taxpayer,” said a spokesperson.
Previous leaked documents claimed that the government is seeking to control the internet with poll hacking, social media manipulation, and even more snooping.
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