FBI logs on for monitoring service for Arabic networks

The FBI now has access to an online service that its employees can use to screen TV broadcasts and provide alerts when specified words are used, either on English-language networks or networks broadcasting in Arabic.

Critical Mention Inc. of New York City provides the service, which it is furnishing to multiple users at the bureau under a recently concluded one-year contract with options for renewal.

'CriticalTV alerts users about a relevant clip seconds after a broadcast, and allows users to share the clip instantly within a workgroup via secure video-e-mail or a private video gallery. Users can also order a professional transcript or hard copy online,' according to a company announcement.

The vendor has forged a partnership with IBM Corp. to incorporate an Arabic-to-English, speech-to-text translation feature into the CriticalTV service.
The TV monitoring service generates alerts of the use of a specified word or term within two minutes or so of its broadcast via a satellite or terrestrial broadcast network, the company said.

The bureau is using the service to monitor TV news mentions of the term 'FBI' on various news networks to track the public's perception of the law enforcement agency, sources said.

In a similar vein, a user at the bureau could use the service to track the use of other words of interest that might be broadcast in Arabic, including the names, events, locations, physical objects, organizations, vehicles, political parties, products or the like. Then a user could receive an English-text version of the Arabic broadcast as well as a video clip, and potentially incorporate the information in an appropriate database.

The company's chief financial officer, Alan Davison, noted that its existing customers include many Fortune 500 companies as well as members of Congress who seek to track the news profile of political campaigns, major public events, their own companies, competitors, their products and the like.

Davison said that Critical Mention would launch its monitoring of five Arabic-language TV networks in mid-November, including Al Jazeera and other major broadcasters.

He added that the company plans to expand the foreign-language TV monitoring service to other languages as well.

A system user views a screen that provides, among other features an opportunity for 'advanced search' which limits an inquiry by the network monitored or by other dimensions. Once the user has crafted a search that limits the inquiry to a targeted word or phrase, the system generates a response that includes text and video clips of the use of that term.

The user can immediately view the entire video clip or text version of the broadcast, translated by the advanced IBM Arabic-to-English translation tool if necessary.

The company already has about 500 clients, including private companies and government agencies.


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