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UK Government Harvesting Data from Social Media

Published in May 2016 on the UK Government website is this document (mirror) titled “Using social media for social research: An introduction”.

This 27 page document was prepared by the Social Media Research Group, that was apparently established in 2014 according to the blurb in this report which also claims the goals of this Group are:

  • To develop an understanding of robust (and non-robust) social media research and its relevance and application to government.
  • To build capabilities within Government Social Research (GSR), and across government, to carry out and critically appraise social media research.
  • To raise awareness and disseminate guidance on robust and ethical social media research in government and the appropriate use of findings in policy-making.

Let’s ignore the obvious joke about anything related to the fantasy of “ethical social media research in government” and understand what this is really about.

This is yet more “Nudge Unit” style behavioural and social study for the Government to find new ways to manipulate the public, and have the public essentially volunteer that information to the Government without realising it, and of course pay for this research that will be weaponised against them via taxes.

On page 7 of this report we begin to see how the Social Media Research Group which is made up of Government staff but position themselves with their tone as if they are somehow separate, suggest how the Government can use “big data” collected by Social Media companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google etc. as they explain in the section titled “Social media in government”.

Social media can be used by government in a number of ways:

1) Communication and engagement

This is the use of social media as a communication and multi-participant engagement tool both within government and with external stakeholders. Intra-government use covers internal communication and engagement with other Civil Servants to promote work, share learning and discuss ideas. Government to public communication covers the
use of social media as a method of promoting government work and policies (e.g. Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Instagram account, Department of Health’s Twitter account). Although still not overly exploited, social media can also be used by government as a public engagement tool to allow a two-way dialogue. For example, open policy-making has explored adopting social media as a way of broadening the range of people government engages with in the process of policy development.

2) Analysis and research

This is the collection and analysis of social media data and includes:

Analysis of government use of social media.
This type of analysis monitors and evaluates government social media communication and engagement. An example would be analysing the reach of a departmental Tweet or the dispersal of the information from that Tweet across a social media network of users.

Analysis and research into the public’s use of social media.
This type of analysis and research can be used to support the development, implementation, review and evaluation of government policy and operational delivery. An example would be researching the attitudes of social media users
towards a new service provision, or using public social media data to predict outbreaks of foodborne disease.

Page 7 – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/524750/GSR_Social_Media_Research_Guidance_-_Using_social_media_for_social_research.pdf

So they are advocating the use of social media by Governments to disseminate information and allegedly as a two-way communication tool. Obviously the Government simply ignores any incoming communication it doesn’t like, so the “two-way” aspect is entirely dependent on the public either asking approved questions or sharing approved thoughts and opinions.

More importantly, and this will have been obvious to anyone paying attention (but it is interesting to see it documented as a strategy by the Government themselves, just so it’s not a “Conspiracy Theory” you understand) the Government wants to analyse the public’s use of social media and even way back in 2016 they are suggesting the detection of “public outbreaks” of disease via snooping on people’s social media posts.

Next up is the section on “Social Media Research”, and again we see references to actual Government projects that used the analysis of social media data as you can see on page 8:

The diagram on the following pages details the main considerations likely to be required during the lifecycle of a social media research project. It uses the Cabinet Office framework for data science projects, as there are numerous parallels here. It also includes examples from two real government projects which made use of social media data. The first is the Food Standards Agency using Twitter to predict cases of Norovirus (Disson & Baker, 2014) and the second is the Scottish Government using social media data to assess experiences of the XX Commonwealth Games (Scottish Government Social Research, 2015).

Page 8 – https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/524750/GSR_Social_Media_Research_Guidance_-_Using_social_media_for_social_research.pdf

Yes, the Government has and is snooping on people’s social media posts to “predict cases” of viruses and has been doing that since at least 2014. When you posted a picture of a hot lemon drink and told your friends you had the sniffles, Nanny State was vacuuming up that and all the other posts they think might signal “cases” and you became another data point in a silo of big data for the Government to “predict” public health matters and wade in with needles and hazmat suits to save us all.

Sounds far fetched? So did lots of things 18 months ago like “vaccine passports”, “quarantine camps” and “mandated injections”, and yet here we are. We need to stop feeding our enemy, the Governments and their public/private partnership mates with all the data to use against us. The idea that if we’re not doing anything wrong we don’t need privacy based on the fallacy that “only criminals want to hide anything” is a lie promulgated by the very people who want to enslave us.

Let’s find other options to communicate, do business and socialise as they do exist.