While news is breaking that U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation into government surveillance of the Trump campaign is now a criminal probe, another, lesser-known story of allegedly unlawful monitoring of conservatives should concern you equally.
Judicial Watch is reporting that the State Department utilized a social media tracking tool linked to George Soros to spy on prominent conservative personalities, reporters, and associates of President Trump.
The tool, Crowdtangle, monitored a dozen U.S. citizens, including one of the President’s sons, his personal attorney, and Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.
Per Judicial Watch:
Last week Judicial Watch launched an investigation into the unlawful monitoring, which State Department sources say was conducted by the agency in Ukraine at the request of ousted U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, an Obama appointee. Judicial Watch has obtained information indicating Yovanovitch may have violated laws and government regulations by ordering subordinates to target certain U.S. persons using State Department resources. Yovanovitch reportedly ordered monitoring keyed to the following search terms: Biden, Giuliani, Soros and Yovanovitch. Judicial Watch filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the State Department last week and continues gathering facts from government sources. This week Judicial Watch filed another FOIA request for information related to the State Department’s use of Crowdtangle.
A private, invitation-only engine, Crowdtangle describes itself as a leading content discovery and social monitoring platform that can help identify influencers and track rivals. It was launched in 2011 to organize activism via social media and Facebook purchased it in 2016. Crowdtangle monitors more than 5 million social media accounts and uses dashboards to track keywords, data and specific topics across platforms. For years Facebook has made Crowdtangle available to the mainstream media and in January founder and CEO Brandon Silverman announced he will give access to select academics and researchers in order to help counter misinformation and abuse of social media platforms. “To date, Crowdtangle has been available primarily to help newsrooms and media publishers understand what is happening on the platform,” Silverman writes. “We’re eager to make it available to this important new set of partners and help continue to provide more transparency into how information is being spread on social media.”
A leftwing, Soros-funded organization called Social Science Research Center (SSRC) is charged with determining who is granted access to Crowdtangle. Earlier this year Facebook announced that SSRC will pick researchers who will gain access to its cherished “privacy-protected” data. The statement assures that “Facebook did not play any role in the selection of the individuals or their projects and will have no role in directing the findings or conclusions of the research.” That is left up to the SSRC, which claims that selected researchers will use privacy-protected Facebook data to “study the platform’s impact on democracy worldwide.” The nonprofit describes itself as an international organization guided by the belief that “justice, prosperity, and democracy all require better understanding of complex social, cultural, economic, and political processes.” In 2016 Soros’s Open Society Foundations gave the SSRC nearly $500,000 for a Latin America human rights and public health initiative and a global “equality and antidiscrimination” program.
The 2018 Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy report confirms that the State Department uses Crowdtangle and considers it an important tool for social media managers to conduct official agency business worldwide. The State Department’s head of Public Diplomacy training also encourages the use of Crowdtangle to educate personnel about polling data consumption and “the difference between impression and reach.” The State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) actually includes a link to Crowdtangle and reveals the agency uses it to track social media posts. Nevertheless, ordering subordinates to target certain U.S. persons, as sources say Yovanovitch did, using State Department resources would constitute a violation of laws and government regulations. “This is not an obscure rule, everyone in public diplomacy or public affairs knows they can’t make lists and monitor U.S. citizens unless there is a major national security reason,” a senior State Department official told Judicial Watch last week when the story broke.