Using Twitter To Research The Surveillance Topic

Like podcasts, Twitter is an excellent indirect research tool for debaters. While tweets should rarely if ever be directly quoted as evidence in contest rounds, Twitter can be used as an important part of a student’s overall research process. By finding the right accounts to follow, debaters can leverage experts to guide their research for them by drawing attention to important events (like court decisions or congressional hearings), linking to insightful content (books, articles, interviews, videos, podcasts, etc.), and engaging in a continuous, interactive commentary about topic-related issues. For the surveillance topic, there are many “must follow” accounts that will greatly aid students in their preparation. Below the fold is a list of fifteen Twitter users debaters should follow for surveillance-related content.

All of these individuals are (at least to some degree) critics of NSA surveillance programs. It has been difficult to find experts who support the NSA programs on Twitter; if you come across any, please share in the comments. This list is in alphabetical order.

Alex Abdo — @AlexanderAbdo. A staff attorney at the ACLU, Abdo is currently involved in several legal challenges to the NSA’s surveillance programs. He tweets a few times per day with the vast majority of his tweets covering surveillance-related topics.

James Bamford — @WashAuthor. A filmmaker and journalist, Bamford has been writing about the NSA for more than 30 years. He tweets infrequently—mostly to link to his own articles and interviews—but almost all content is surveillance-related and worth exploring.

Nate Cardozo — @ncardozo. A Staff Attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Cardozo works on digital civil liberties issues and tweets regularly about them. His timeline is a good mix of informative links, incisive commentary, and humorous asides.

David Cole — @DavidColeGtown. A professor at Georgetown and a legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, Cole tweets a few times per day about a variety of (mostly law-related) topics. He frequently links to surveillance-related content.

Thomas Drake — @Thomas_Drake1. An NSA whisteblower, Drake is one of only a few Americans ever prosecuted under the Espionage Act. He has become an anti-surveillance activist and his timeline is filled with useful links and commentary about surveillance-related topics.

Patrick Eddington — @PGEddington. A Policy Analyst at the Cato Institute who writes about surveillance, Eddington is a prolific tweeter about a wide range of civil liberties issues. While many of his tweets are not surveillance-related, the ones that are make him worth following.

David Greene — @DavidGreene. A Senior Staff Attorney and the Civil Liberties Director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Greene is a frequent participant in forums and debates about surveillance policy. He tweets regularly about surveillance-related topics.

Glenn Greenwald — @ggreenwald. The journalist that worked with Edward Snowden to publicly report on the NSA’s surveillance programs, Greenwald won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. He tweets frequently (many times per day) about a range of topics but the bulk of his timeline is at least loosely surveillance-related. He is a must-follow for surveillance researchers.

The Intercept — @the_intercept. The Intercept is an online publication edited by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Jeremy Scahill to publish articles reporting on the documents released by Snowden. This twitter account links to new content as it is published; it is an essential follow for anyone researching surveillance issues.

Jameel Jaffer — @JameelJaffer. The Deputy Legal Director of the ACLU, Jaffer leads a team that is challenging the legality and Constitutionality of the NSA’s surveillance programs. He tweets regularly about surveillance-related topics; they make up the bulk of his posts.

Hina Shamsi — @HinaShamsi. The Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, Shamsi tweets about a variety of topics including detention, torture, and surveillance. While she tweets relatively infrequently, she is worth following for a good mix of links and insightful comments.

Amie Stepanovich — @astepanovich. The U.S. Policy Manager for Access Now—an international human rights organization committed to defending Internet freedom, Stepanovich worked previously for the Electronic Privacy Information Center and is an expert on digital privacy policy. She tweets prolifically, and much of her timeline is dedicated to surveillance-related issues.

Patrick Toomey — @PatrickCToomey. A Staff Attorney at the ACLU, Toomey is another member of the team challenging the NSA’s surveillance programs. He tweets regularly, mostly about surveillance-related issues.

Nate Freed Wessler — @NateWessler. A Staff Attorney at the ACLU, Wessler works on the Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. He tweets regularly (but relatively infrequently), mostly about surveillance-related issues.

Jonathan Zittrain — @zittrain. While he doesn’t tweet a lot about surveillance policy, this Harvard professor is one of the world’s leading experts in the intersection of Internet technology, law, and policy. His tweets are relatively infrequent but typically quite interesting; his timeline is a great source of information about the technology side of the topic.

Are there other users that debaters should follow? Please share them in the comments.

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