‘Ridiculous and dangerous!’: Americans express alarm over social media snooping reportedly carried out by US Postal Service
Known as the Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), the program tracks social media platforms for “inflammatory” content and shares that information with government agencies, according to Yahoo News, citing internal documents. The initiative is run by the law enforcement arm of the USPS, the US Postal Inspection Service.
A March 16 government bulletin obtained by the news outlet details how iCOP monitored “significant activity” regarding anti-lockdown protests that were planned in cities around the country and internationally on March 20. The document, marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed by the Department of Homeland Security, said that information about the demonstrations was being shared on multiple social media platforms, including “right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.”
The memo flagged several posts discussing how the protests could be used as an opportunity to engage in a “fight,” but concluded that there was no intelligence to suggest they were legitimate threats.Also on rt.com ‘Biopolitical surveillance regimes’: Vaccine passports reveal the growing authoritarian tendencies of Western governments
The US Postal Inspection Service declined to answer questions about the program submitted by Yahoo News, but explained that iCOP “[assesses] threats to Postal Service employees and its infrastructure by monitoring publicly available open source information.” It said that it works with law enforcement agencies to “proactively identify” such threats, but does not discuss its “protocols, investigative methods, or tools,” in order to maintain “operational effectiveness.”
While the Postal Service remains tight-lipped about the program, many on social media have demanded accountability from the government agency.
“This is ridiculous and dangerous. It must end immediately!” tweeted conservative pundit Robby Starbuck.
“How can this possibly be under their purview?” asked another outraged observer of the Postal Service.
Others described iCOP as Big Brother “brought to life.”
Disturbing! Why do Presidents and my colleagues in congress tolerate these violations of the Constitution?Also, and unfortunately, the USPS has been losing money for many years... so where do they find money to run this surveillance program?https://t.co/rmcKAsTRNK— Thomas Massie (@RepThomasMassie) April 21, 2021
Kentucky Republican Rep. Thomas Massie described the alleged snooping as “disturbing” and suggested that it was unconstitutional. He also wondered how the agency could afford the surveillance program, given its recent budgetary issues.
There were some commenters who seemed to think that there was nothing wrong with the practice, though, and that only people engaged in illegal activity should worry about public social media posts being monitored by government workers. Several replies to the story noted that the current postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, was appointed by Republican Donald Trump, making those who blame Democrats for the snooping look absurd.
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