The Federal Reserve Bank of New York wants to know what you are Tweeting, Facebooking and YouTubing. Apparently, a simple Google search for posts about the Fed doesn’t suffice, as the bank has issued a request for proposal soliciting the creation of a “Sentiment Analysis And Social Media Monitoring Solution,” which would allow it to gather all of the comments posted about it online and distinguish between positive and negative commentary.
The RFP, uncovered by the blog Zero Hedge on Sunday, calls for a far-reaching, customizable social dashboard that “must be able to gather data from the primary social media platforms -Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums and YouTube. It should also be able to aggregate data from various media outlets such as: CNN, WSJ, Factiva etc.”
It also specifies that the solution should “monitor billions of conversations and generate text analytics based on predefined criteria…also determine the sentiment of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document.”
The Fed is probably looking over proposals for such a system right now, as the RFP asks that companies submit their ideas by no later than September 26.
“You can bet those who are influential in a negative manner will be the first to hear from the massive bank,” predicts Lauren Dungan at Mediabistro’s All Twitter blog.
Zero Hedge’s Tyler Durden, notoriously melodramatic, was even more dire:
“Once the Internet is completely ‘transparent’, the Fed will next focus on telephone conversations, and finally will simply bug each and every otherwise ‘private’ location in the world. Because very soon saying that ‘printing money is treason’ will be treason, and such terrorist thoughts must be pre-crimed before they even occur.”
The Fed, for its part, has defended the proposal, saying it is simply one part of its larger PR revamp, which kicked-off in April with the first-ever public press conference from a sitting chairman in its 98-year-history.
“The New York Fed is committed to improving its communications and engagement with the public in order to enhance and improve the public’s understanding of its activities and the role it plays in supporting the U.S. economy,” a Fed spokesman told the Los Angeles Times. “To do that effectively, the New York Fed is interested in getting a better sense of the relevant concerns and discussions that are taking place in the public domain.”
Compare that line to what Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said in 2005 when he first brought up the idea of holding a public press conference: ” “Under Chairman Greenspan, monetary policy has become increasingly transparent to the public and the financial markets, a trend that I strongly support.”
Still, that defense is unlikely to sway bloggers, particularly of the Randian free-market, anti-Fed sort, who in general tend to view the Fed with a mixture of fear and disdain, believing it is primarily a mechanism for economic, and thus, social control.
Idea Lab has reached out to Facebook, Twitter and Google (which owns YouTube) to see what they know about the RFP and how it could impact users, and we’ll update when receive a response.