A team of CIA employees known as the 'vengeful librarians' are keeping a close eye on all things social in an effort to monitor developing trends around the world. The program was recommended by the 9/11 Commission as a way to focus on counterterrorism and counter proliferation, says The Associated Press.
Each day, several hundred analysts working in a non-descript Virginia facility and others scattered around the world set to work analyzing multiple social networks, newspapers, TV news channels, local radio stations and Internet chat rooms – virtually any outlet that people can access and contribute to openly. One example given says the group is able to follow up to 5 million tweets per day.
The team started scanning social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter after protests following the 2009 Iranian presidential election showed a huge spike in Twitter activity. Twitter was instrumental during the protests as Iran shut down access to certain news outlets to prevent the spread of information regarding the election. Internet users relied on social networking sites to trade lists of web proxy servers to bypass these restrictions.
Such monitoring also gave the organization a real-time peek at the mood of certain regions following the announcement that Osama bin Laden had been killed and during riots in Bangkok last year.
CIA officials are gathering data and cross-referencing it with other intelligence to predict social uprising as well. The group knew that the uprising in Egypt was coming; they just couldn’t pinpoint exactly when it would begin.
Reports from the “vengeful librarians” end up in President Barack Obama’s daily briefing almost every day.