Homeland Security Is Looking for These Words in Social Media

If you update your Facebook status with the news that you got food poisoning from the pork you ate on your trip to El Paso, you may catch the attention of the Department of Homeland Security.

Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center, the DHS released its 2011 Analyst’s Desktop Binder, which includes a list of hundreds of words monitored by the department’s National Operations Center to identify “media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities” and to flag social media content that might somehow be threatening to public safety.

Many of the words on the list—bomb, militia, anthrax, epidemic, jihad — are just what you’d expect. The DHS has cast a very wide net in order to focus on all kinds of dangers and threats, such as natural disasters or infrastructure threats. So, less threatening words—smart, San Diego, tornado, Red Cross, Amtrak, delays, and even pork — are also watched for, leaving some people wondering just how carefully they have to watch what they’re saying online.

Not to worry, says the DHS, which insists that the list is aimed not at policing the Internet for disparaging remarks about the government or signs of dissent, but to provide awareness of any potential threats. (Which, we should point out, doesn’t explain its looking for “media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities.”)

Nevertheless, if you come down with the flu in Tucson, think twice before tweeting about it. Lifehacker has the whole list here.

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