The FBI Is Upping Its Social Media Surveillance Program

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has signed a $27 million contract to access the AI software, Babel X, allowing officials to scour through social media for content. This could undoubtedly have serious consequences for privacy, a concern echoed by activists for a while now.

According to The Washington Post, the agency will receive 5,000 licenses for Babel X, with the contract officially beginning on March 30. The FBI will reportedly shell out roughly $5 million in the first year of the contract.

Input Mag points out that the use of Babel X is quite standard among the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its branches. However, acquiring 5,000 new licenses for the software is certainly new. This could also draw the ire of activists across the globe.


The move aims to keep a closer watch on social media platforms, which have become a hotbed for illegal activities. Last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol was organized, in part, on social media platforms, leading the DOJ to take a firmer stance on surveillance.

The agency will use Babel X to closely monitor social media apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

The FBI will prioritize apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn, VK, and Telegram. Additionally, the agency will keep an eye on the dark web for malicious activity. According to WaPo, the FBI also wanted to track platforms like Reddit, Discord, Snapchat, TikTok, Weibo, 8Kun, Gab, and Parler. However, these platforms were lower on the FBI’s priority list.

As per the FBI’s estimates, these newly acquired Babel X licenses could run up to 20,000 keyword searches per month. The agency clarifies that it will only use the software to acquire publicly available information. It claims the media surveillance program won’t be intrusive as most of the information is already available online.


Experts claim this is a slippery slope, regardless of the FBI’s defense of its new surveillance program. ACLU staff attorney Matt Cagle said this move could “risk further bias and harm against the same people that the government has historically mislabeled as suspicious, including movement leaders, immigrants and members of religious and ethnic minorities.”

It’s clear now that surveillance will be a big part of our future. In anticipation of these privacy concerns, several users have already flocked to secure messaging apps like Signal in favor of IM apps like WhatsApp.