The wave of civil unrest that has swept the globe over the past year has prompted the Department of Homeland Security to step up its monitoring of Twitter and other social networks in a bid to pre-empt any sign of social dislocation within the United States.

“Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Caryn Wagner said the use of such technology in uprisings that started in December in Tunisia shocked some officials into attention and prompted questions of whether the U.S. needs to do a better job of monitoring domestic social networking activity,” reports the Associated Press.

Wagner announced that the federal agency would implement new guidelines that would focus on “gleaning information from sites such as Twitter and Facebook for law enforcement purposes.”

Under the new framework, when the department receives information about a “potential threat,” it will then ask its contractors to look for relevant search references using “open source” information.

Although it’s somewhat naive to think that Homeland Security wasn’t already scanning the likes of Facebook and Twitter for social trends and signs of civil unrest, the fact that its now being announced publicly illustrates the increasing concern that riots which have hit the Middle East and Europe over the last 18 months will soon manifest themselves inside the United States.

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