The Australian Government’s Facebook And Twitter Monitoring Service Has Been Revealed

Getty / Dan Kitwood

The Australian government is using a private research company to take the public’s pulse on policy areas and advise it on responses, including on immigration.

Fairfax Media reports the government has been using a Melbourne-based company, Cubit Media Research, to deliver “media positioning analysis” to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Immigration and border protection are the government’s most sensitive policy areas, including the secretive Operation Sovereign Borders to deter asylum seekers attempting to reach Australia by boat.

Warren Weeks, the Cubit Media chief executive, said clients used his company because “we have the capacity to monitor millions of pieces a day”, and they could ask “What’s the mood? What’s the tone?”

The spend is part of $4.3 million worth in research contracts commissioned by the government since last September’s election. The opposition has criticised the spending but the government argues it has reduced the amount spent under Labor.

Social media analysis is a controversial area, with some sceptical that sentiment can be accurately captured, or believing if it is accurate, the results will only be reflective of a limited cross-section of heavy social media users who discuss news and current affairs intensively.

The methods have been improving in recent years, however, and sentiment monitoring is used widely by companies to track responses to marketing campaigns and products. On its website Cubit provides details about its monitoring product, which it calls [email protected]:

[email protected] scans millions of print and online news items every day, and trawls through tens of millions of social media posts each hour.

Results are delivered via an app that runs on all popular desktop and mobile devices.

[email protected] finds, filters, organizes, and displays key stories and trends just minutes after they appear. No more waiting for hours, or until the next day, to understand what’s happening.

Results can be delivered to smartphones in real time. There more information here.

In December it emerged that communications director for former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, John McTernan, referred to the mobilisation of a “Twitter army” to attack the coalition on various news points of the day.