by Joseph Marks
The Food and Drug Administration is looking for a contractor to monitor social media chatter about the drugs and other products it regulates and how that chatter shifts as a result of FDA risk warnings, solicitation documents show.
The agency is looking for a contractor that can provide historical information about the sorts of conversations consumers are having on blogs, message boards and social media sites about the product classes FDA regulates — such as drugs, medical devices, food and tobacco — and then track when the sentiment or volume of those conversations shifts, according to the sources sought notice posted on Tuesday.
FDA wants to track what makes those conversations spike, rise slowly or trend downward, the notice said, and to gather information about “about social media buzz volume over time, top sources of buzz, most popular forums of online discussion, most-cited news stories, major themes of discussion, sentiment analysis, word clouds and/or message maps, and a sample of verbatim consumer comments.”
A sources sought notice doesn’t obligate FDA to purchase any goods or services.
FDA has been at the forefront of agencies using Web monitoring to guide their work. In September, the agency contracted with a small company of former campaigners for President Obama to track the public response to FDA’s own social media outreach.
The agency is also using Web monitoring to find and shut down sellers of fake and knock off drugs and other products.
The General Services Administration has urged agencies to learn from social media to fine tune their services, noting that intelligence gathered from social media can help agencies deliver services more effectively and, ultimately, save money.
The White House issued guidance in July approving such social media mining programs to gain “situational awareness” so long as agencies level with the public about what information they’re collecting and why.