It’s nice to know blogs are now seen as worthy of monitoring by the big US intelligence agencies. No, not the “Last night I saw a movie with Johnnie and then colored my hair blue” type of blogs, but the political blogs that wield influence, like Salam Pax and, I presume, superbloggers like Instapundit and Daily Kos.
People in black trench coats might soon be chasing blogs.
Blogs, short for Web logs, are personal online journals. Individuals post them on Web sites to report or comment on news especially, but also on their personal lives or most any subject.
Some blogs are whimsical and deal with “soft” subjects. Others, though, are cutting edge in delivering information and opinion.
As a result, some analysts say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials might be starting to track blogs for important bits of information. This interest is a sign of how far Web media such as blogs have come in reshaping the data-collection habits of intelligence professionals and others, even with the knowledge that the accuracy of what’s reported in some blogs is questionable.
Of course, it was the graf about blogs and SARS in China that caught my eye. Too bad it has an error.
Blogs last year also provided information during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. In China, where the SARS (news – web sites) outbreak began, the government at first said little. But health officials and reporters were able to get a sense of what was happening through blogs, as well as from e-mail and cell phone text messages sent to people outside China. This might have spurred China’s blog crackdown.
Were people in China blogging about SARS? I guess they were, it seems so long ago. The reporter’s error, however, is that China began blacking out blogs before the word “SARS” came into existence. It was in January 2003 that the Cyber Nanny clamped down on Blogspot, which at the time was by far the most popular blogging service. The bigger wave of blog blackouts has been quite recent, long after the noise over SARS had simmered down.
That aside, it’s fascinating to read how US spies around the world are tuning into blogs for information.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.