Outcry over US Postal Service reportedly tracking social media posts
Report obtained by Yahoo says USPS surveilling via covert program social media activity it describes as ‘inflammatory’
Coral Murphy Marcos
Fri 23 Apr 2021 04.00 EDT
“The US Postal Service has reportedly been monitoring social media posts, with a focus on people planning protests.
The surveillance procedure, known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), tracks social media activity that it describes as “inflammatory” and shares that information to government agencies, according to a government bulletin from 16 March obtained by Yahoo News. The program is part of the efforts of the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), the law enforcement arm of the USPS.
The USPIS monitored social media accounts regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically on 20 March, when the World Wide Rally for Freedom and Democracy was scheduled to take place, according to the bulletin.
The information regarding the demonstrations against lockdown measures was distributed through Department of Homeland Security facilities. The agency collected information from Facebook, as well as other platforms used by rightwing extremist groups, such as Parler and Telegram.
“Icop analysts are currently monitoring these social media channels for any potential threats stemming from the scheduled protests and will disseminate intelligence updates as needed,” reads the bulletin.
The agency told Yahoo News that Icop “assesses threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open source information.”
Social media users have expressed concern over this practice. One user said: “You’ve got mail! Seriously, USPS is monitoring our social media?”
Kentucky representative Thomas Massie expressed his concern over the USPS’s move via Twitter. “The USPS has been losing money for many years … so where do they find money to run this surveillance program?”
The Postal Inspection Service also investigates information related to illegal narcotics, mail theft, identity theft, mail fraud, suspicious mail, disaster response, money laundering, cybercrime and child exploitation, according to their website.
Following the Capitol insurrection, a debate has simmered over government monitoring of Americans’ social media accounts. Over 70% of responding police departments use social media for intelligence gathering and to monitor public sentiment, according to a 2017 survey by the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Facebook’s transparency report states that the company received more than 60,000 government requests for data between January and June 2019.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has faced scrutiny over the last year due to the reform effort that slowed mail service for the 2020 election. Last month, DeJoy also unveiled a 10-year plan to cut post office hours and lengthen delivery times.“
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