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DHS strives to foster dialogue over border issues with new social network

LatinaLista — In a move that I can only characterize as “odd,” the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has decided to amp up their PR when it comes to border security by creating their own social network.

Visit Our Border
Dubbed Our Border: A Southwest Border Civic Network, the site carries “blog posts,” which are only reprints of speeches delivered by DHS Secretary Napolitano at various events, discussion forums (Customs and Border Protection, Comprehensive Immigration Reform, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Citizenship and Immigration Services), photos of the border wall and region and videos – government produced.
It is an interesting attempt by DHS to make themselves appear more transparent and “seemingly” responsive to people regarding the border issue but because of certain censorship the government is imposing the site is far from a free exchange of opinions that traditional social networks foster.

DHS will use the network to communicate the department’s policy, post photos and videos, and engage in dialogue, according to the policies detailed on Our Border. The department administers the network and plans to eventually use Ning’s live chat feature on Our Border, according to DHS’ privacy impact assessment.

So far, the site has 128 members who have posted their names and towns. Out of the 128 people listed as members, only 40 people have actually posted photos of themselves.
Another factor that might deter people from feeling completely at ease in speaking their minds is the fact that the Ning company requires users to submit personally identifiable information (PII) such as e-mail addresses and dates of birth when registering.
Though DHS has promised not to collect, gather or put that information into their records database, for who knows what, the possibility that someone might do it, is enough to re-evaluate the need to join yet one more social network where more than half the people don’t even want their faces shown.
With all the restrictions DHS is imposing on the site, it seems disingenuous to try to use social media to present a “false front,” if you will.
If they were really sincere about connecting to people who care about what happens at the U.S.-Mexico border, they should ease up on the restrictions, have someone write daily blog updates about what’s going on with the agency, encourage people to create a greater profile than just their name and town and accept video from members to post on the site.
While this is a first step, it’s one that’s already a step backwards if they don’t do a better job of illustrating their sincerity in reaching out to people rather than just erecting another platform to get their news and views out.

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