June 5, 2014
Secret Service Should Just Throw Money Down Toilet
Perhaps the United States Secret Service — the agency charged with protecting the President and other important US officials, as well as stopping counterfeiting efforts — will take notice of my headline. It was meant to be sarcastic and is probably obviously so.
However, this week the Washington Post reported that the Secret Service is on the lookout for software that can help it spot sarcasm on social media!
As the Post noted, “Yeah, good luck with that.”
In other words, isn’t much of online dialog on social media essentially sarcastic? That is along the lines of being surprised that tech blogs are somewhat snarky.
The rationality is basically that it is, in fact, a class D felony under the United States Code Title 18, Section 871, to knowingly and willfully make “any threat to take the life of, to kidnap, or inflict bodily harm upon the President of the United States.” The Secret Service is the agency that investigates suspected violations of the law — as well as to monitor those who have a history of threatening the President.
As has been debated by legal scholars, “even joking about shooting the president is a crime.” In other words, threatening the POTUS is not protected speech under the first amendment of the United States Constitution. Other legal scholars have contended that “the person uttered the words to be true,” so there is where the sarcasm comes in.
When a comedian on stage gave a one-liner said, “take my wife… please,” it is pretty obvious this isn’t actually a call for anyone to kidnap his wife. It is a lot less clear on social media what falls into sarcasm and what is serious, but does the government really need to invest this sort of money into such a program?
And this is no joke. On Monday, the Secret Service did actually put in a request for the software and is accepting proposals through next week, according to Nextgov.com
“Our objective is to automate our social-media monitoring process,” Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told the Washington Post. “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.”
For this reason, the Secret Service wants to create its own system for monitoring Twitter ,among other social media sites. The goal is to weed out sarcasm, which the paper noted has gotten people in trouble in the past.
“A Texas teenager was arrested last year after posting what he said was a sarcastic comment about shooting up ‘a school full of kids’ on Facebook. A Twitter user was arrested in the Netherlands in April after tweeting what she claimed was a joke bomb threat to American Airlines.”
These are just a few of the more “stupid” (my word) things that people have posted on Twitter and on other social media sites. It isn’t a crime to be a jerk or a buffoon on social media, but we already live in a society where some people (some people I even know) care to share too much.
Social media should come with some barriers, and maybe not making stupid threats should be part of it. There are times when we all get frustrated or angry and say things we shouldn’t, and there are probably times when people vent on social media.
The sad part of this is that it sounds like 1) the Secret Service already has to spend time monitoring social media, and 2) the Secret Service is going to monitor social media a whole lot more!
First, this means a lot of wasted tax payer money, but it also means that the Secret Service could take up a role in monitoring average social media users.
Move over NSA, you have some competition – it seems like the United States Secret Service (USSS) is seeming a lot more like another SS, and that is nothing to be sarcastic about.
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