What The Social World Is Saying About PRISM

By Sheldon Levine - Tuesday, June 18th, 2013 at 8:55 am  

As long as the internet has been in the mainstream there has been talk about what information people have on it can be seen by others. About 11 days ago this talk hit a new high as a United States NSA (National Security Agency) intelligence program, PRISM, came to light in the public.

Like many people, the PRISM program intrigued me. More so, I was intrigued by the world was saying about PRISM. Using MAP, our social media monitoring and analytics software, I looked into some social media statistics and analytics around the PRISM chatter.

But what exactly is PRISM? According to what we know, it’s a program that the NSA implemented with some of the worlds largest internet companies to gather large amounts of data for security information. The program came into the public light on June 6th when a former NSA contract worker leaked information about PRISM to the press, specifically to The Guardian and The Washington Post. The document sent to these sources named many large companies that we all know and use on a daily basis as sources of the NSA’s information. Since then, many of the companies named to be part of the PRISM program have come out and said that they are not feeding all of their data to the NSA, but rather they take proper legal steps to only hand over data required by them by specific court documents. For more detailed information about PRISM, check out the Wikipedia article which is constantly being updated as new information comes out.

While the United States government has openly admitted that the program exists, but that they cannot and are not using to keep tabs on their own citizens beyond national security issues. However, There is still a lot of people wondering what information is being seen, from where and by whom?

I decided to not add any real commentary on the PRISM chatter, but rather just present you some of the facts that I found doing this search.

Looking for the word “PRISM” mentioned through social media over the past two weeks comes up with a number just under 1 million. In that time 35,121 blog posts, 59,833 online news articles, 37,035 forum postings and 833,190 tweets mentioning PRISM.

Looking at the mentions of PRISM over time, I looked back a month so we could see when the news broke. As you can see, before June 5th there was almost no mentions of the word PRISM (however there were a few as a prism is an actual thing). Then the information came out to The Guardian and Washington Post and you can see on June 6th the initial reports start to hit, but the real spike in mentions comes on June 7th as every one else became aware the next day when daily publications also helped to spread the news.

I then looked up who around the world was talking about PRISM. Because PRISM has to do with the United States government and companies which operate there, it’s no surprise that they accounted for exactly half of the conversation. The second most chatter about PRISM came from the UK (7.4%) followed by Germany (6.7%), France (3%) and Australia (2.8%).

For a more visual representation of all the people around the world who are talking about PRISM, see the heat map of Twitter mentions below.

I was also curious as to who was talking about PRISM. I started by looking at top sources coming from Twitter (users with a high authority rank who are mentioning PRISM the most). The results here are quite interesting. The top three Twitter sources are all ones that have been known to publicly fight for privacy, especially from the government, online; Anonymous (hacker activist network), Kim Dotcom (founder of Mega Upload which was taken down by the government a few years ago) and Netz4ktivisten (a privacy advocate group from Denmark).

I then looked into which online news sources around the world are talking about PRISM the most. The leader of the pack here was Yahoo, but likely because they aggregate news from all over the web. The only two American based news organizations I see on this list are Reuters and The Washington Post.

Lastly, I pulled up some text analytics to show you just what everyone is talking about in relation to PRISM. Below you will find a buzzgraph and word cloud around PRISM. In them we can see a lot of the key things that the public already knows about PRISM. We can see words like “NSA,” “privacy,” “data,” “surveillance,” “security” and “intelligence.” There are also many of the companies and government officials that were named as being part of PRISM present.

One interesting thing I found was the correlation of mentions of the NSA with those of PRISM. I actually thought there would be a lot more chatter about PRISM, but it may just be that people don’t know the name of the program, but they are aware of what’s been going on. When I looked up mentions of the NSA over the same period fo time I found over double the amount of mentions than PRISM. There was 2.4 million mentions of the NSA. However, if you look at the popularity graph of when talk about the NSA spiked, you can see that it looks very similar to the popularity graph around PRISM.

What do you think about these stats? What do they say to you about the world’s knowledge about PRISM? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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3 Responses to “What The Social World Is Saying About PRISM”

  1. Thanks for the analysis — some interesting numbers here.
    Interesting that the spike came more in response to the publication of more traditional media, I thought.
    Could you clarify which nations are included in the “any” section of the global breakdown?
    How does this compare to chatter after other breaking news/security stories within the past year, like the Boston Marathon bombing?

  2. jgolexiuk says:

    I’m learning Sysomos for a new position and I find reading the blog very helpful. I would to watch a live breakdown and case study. Starting off with a topic like prismm, like sharknado, like the blackhawks stanley cup victory, and doing a live case study. I think it would be really interesting, and a great way for newbies to get an overview of how to properly use the program and extract what data is meaningful.

  3. Sheldon Levine says:

    Thank you! Glad to hear you’re enjoying the posts!
    When you say a live study, do you mean you would like to actually watch as I go through a topic and look for relevant/interesting information to report on?