The New York Times reports that the Department of Homeland Security is funding the development of software to keep tabs on international publications expressing unfavorable views about the United States. According to the Times:
The new software would allow much more rapid and comprehensive monitoring of the global news media, as the Homeland Security Department and, perhaps, intelligence agencies look "to identify common patterns from numerous sources of information which might be indicative of potential threats to the nation," a statement by the department said.
This kind of monitoring could affect the willingness of journalists to report negative information or controversial opinions about the United States, and otherwise chill online speech protected by the First Amendment.
This program also raises a number of important questions about the agency's goals. Why does the Department of Homeland Security need to collect this information? Will bloggers be considered "media" for purposes of the program? How does the agency intend to use this data in combination with other information to assess threats to the nation? What policies and regulations are in place to ensure that information collected through this program is not misused?
To learn more about government surveillance and data mining, see EFF's page on privacy.