The government is about to start spying on your Facebook and Twitter feeds a lot more

Last Updated: June 5, 2015By

The government already monitors Vox Political but this could signify a serious incursion into our right to free speech. How long until people start being prosecuted, rather than simply monitored, over things they’ve tweeted?

Ministers yesterday slipped out an announcement that agreement has been reached for the first cross-Whitehall contract to monitor what people tweet, post and blog about the Government.

Under the terms of the deal five companies have been approved to keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and blogs and provide daily reports to Whitehall on what’s being said in “real time”.

Ministers, their advisers and officials will provide the firms with “keywords and topics” to monitor. A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said the contract was about getting better 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,” she said.

Source: The government is about to start spying on your Facebook and Twitter feeds a lot more


  1. Nick June 5, 2015 at 11:01 am - Reply

    good by mike your’ll be first to go

  2. Bill Kruse June 5, 2015 at 11:34 am - Reply

    I don’t know that this is so bad. Politicians are often accused of being out of touch, so this could be a good way of addressing that. It’s an opportunity which wasn’t there until recently. If they don’t do this then if they want to know what’s being said in the streets they’re stuck with the results from focus groups, not widely celebrated for their accuracy. I’m ok with it.

    • Mike Sivier June 5, 2015 at 12:25 pm - Reply

      This government doesn’t want to know what people think, in order to change policies.
      It wants to know what people think, in order to punish dissidents.

      • joanna may June 5, 2015 at 7:48 pm - Reply

        What is private about twitter?

        • Mike Sivier June 5, 2015 at 8:53 pm - Reply

          Good point.

  3. chriskitcher June 5, 2015 at 12:00 pm - Reply

    Good! lets hope the bastards listen and take note of what people think of their corrupt and grubby actions.

    • Mike Sivier June 5, 2015 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      They won’t take note. They’ll take action against the people who speak up against them.

  4. Ian Pattinson June 5, 2015 at 12:04 pm - Reply

    I’ve linked this post at and added my own thoughts. It sounds more like market research than spying, so you should be encouraging people to voice their opinions, not spreading paranoia about arrests and such like.

    • Mike Sivier June 5, 2015 at 12:28 pm - Reply

      Let’s wait and see, shall we?

  5. leonc1963 June 5, 2015 at 12:15 pm - Reply

    And we live in a democracy where free speech is the norm!!

  6. peterwytt June 5, 2015 at 12:18 pm - Reply

    Who do you think employs most of the Trolls on the Internet (for the UK) CHQ do on the government and big business behave, the way was paved when Thatcher de-unionised the communication center and then sold it to the private sector to run. You say any thing that they don’t like and you will get trolled where ever they can.

    • wildswimmerpete June 5, 2015 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      Look further down, “hayfords” seems to be one of them.

      • hayfords June 5, 2015 at 8:59 pm - Reply

        It is interesting that you describe people as trolls when they disagree with you. And I thought the argument was about free speech.

        • Mike Sivier June 5, 2015 at 11:11 pm - Reply

          You are trolling. That comment conforms to the dictionary definition of an internet troll.

  7. tommaz jay June 5, 2015 at 12:23 pm - Reply

    Wow Mike you alone will keep them busy,
    So lets the contest begin everyone, start blogging, Face booking and Tweeting. Make documentary’s put them on Youtube. Take part in your national and local radio phone in programmes. Tell the government what we really think of them and their snout-n-trough lackeys and sycophantic press. They cant lock everyone up for heresy.

    Tommaz jay
    Ready to fight for MY rights.

    • Mike Sivier June 5, 2015 at 12:29 pm - Reply

      They’ve got their nice shiny new private prisons to fill.

  8. David chitty June 5, 2015 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    What ever happened to freedom of speech, we have a hard five years ahead, oliticians get 10 percent pay rise , what about the rest of public sector, Cameron is a hypocrite .

  9. hayfords June 5, 2015 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    There iis still freedom of speech. The government iis just monitoring the media, not stopping iit. It needs to do this to counter the rise of violent action by some groups and individuals. If you have nothing to hide then be pleased that social media is being checked. I am.

    • Mike Sivier June 5, 2015 at 5:53 pm - Reply

      Good luck.

      • Terry from Dover, England. June 6, 2015 at 11:22 am - Reply

        To some degree you are all correct, the Govmnt is monitoring for keywords so that things like the London bombing and other militant attacks can be prevented. But they are also trying to gag media content on subject matter that they do not like. The protest in front of the BBC shows this, as the demonstration wasn’t reported in the news.
        It is our right to complain, so if they finally get the message that things with the ‘peasantry’ is wrong, they can take note to maybe changing their patterns in the aerie halls of Politics. And after all, we the People have to re-elect them when all is said and done. ( Ballot box rigging aside he he )

      • James June 6, 2015 at 3:41 pm - Reply

        Its still spying you idiot

        • Mike Sivier June 6, 2015 at 6:52 pm - Reply

          I’m not sure who you are addressing with this comment. Would you mind clarifying?

  10. Terry from Dover, England. June 6, 2015 at 11:24 am - Reply

    Even on here, there are some monitoring of comments, as the moderators have to approve the comment before it is finally put on display to others to see…….

    • Mike Sivier June 6, 2015 at 6:50 pm - Reply

      That would be me.
      I moderate very lightly – only removing antagonistic trolls (SNP supporters, in the main) and swear words so the site remains accessible to all.

  11. Paul Ynwa Davies June 6, 2015 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    if everyone copy/pasted 20 of the keywords into every post they made, it would render the entire project useless….

  12. hayfords June 6, 2015 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    When you post to Facebook and Twitter you are posting to the public domain. It isn’t spying to monitor the content. It might be a bit nosey, but that’s all.

  13. wildswimmerpete June 6, 2015 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    Hayfords, Facebook is for all intents and purposes an arm of the American NSA.

  14. Elaine Jacobs June 7, 2015 at 8:35 pm - Reply

    When I post to Facebook, it is almost always to Friends — not the public domain. Having said that, if this out-of-touch gov’t really wants to know what we really think, bring it on!

    On the other hand, employing FIVE companies to monitor social media seems somewhat profligate in this age of austerity. Who is paying for it? The taxpayers or the Tories?

    • Mike Sivier June 7, 2015 at 11:42 pm - Reply

      I think you know the answer to that one.

    • hayfords June 8, 2015 at 8:19 am - Reply

      It is not possible to monitor all social media traffic in a close surveillance sense. The bulk of it is done via automatic tracking and connection to suspects in a net or tree formation. These new targets are then looked at in more detail. It is similar to bulk phone records. There is not enough manpower to look at it all in detail. The data is kept historically so when suspects pop up their records can be looked at. Because no one knows who in the future the suspects will be, it is necessary to keep all the data.

      Don’t be fooled by announcements here and in the US that the collection of bulk phone and email records is stopping. It is not, as it is necessary to stop terrorism. There are several other agencies apart from NSA and GCHQ who collect the data offshore with no oversight. The other way around US and UK legislation is that we collect the US data and the US collects ours. It has been that way for several years. That way we both operate within the law.

      • Mike Sivier June 8, 2015 at 9:43 am - Reply

        My understanding is that they use keywords to monitor conversations that may or may not be suspicious. The list of such words is very, very long.

  15. hayfords June 8, 2015 at 10:33 am - Reply

    Keywords are not sufficient to flag up risks. It is more analysis of content. There are around 40,000 emails a second sent to be analysed. Keywords would generate millions of targets. It has to be AI analysis. It is not just the obvious platforms that are analysed. The chatter that goes on while gaming on Xbox etc is monitored as are all conversations on electronic devices such as text, Skype. The most important concept is ‘big data’. This is where data is associated from many sources to give a bigger and more accurate picture of people. A commercial example would be combining bank data, mortgage data, magazine subscriptions, buying patterns via Nectar, Tesco, Waitrose loyalty cards, use of credit/debit cards etc plus regression analysis to determine buying factors. If you use these types of techniques then you can predict buying propensity with a high degree of accuracy for a product that you want to sell.

    The same is done with intelligence chatter to build a big picture of suspect individuals, especially when combined with geo positioning data from your cell phone to track movements. Add car number plate registrations, ferry and plane usage and you are just beginning to scratch the surface of what goes on.

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