Words Do Not Equal Intent

Reuters / Toru Hanai


An Illinois man has developed a Gmail browser extension designed to randomly insert fake, nonsensical stories into the signature of every email one sends to confuse the NSA’s surveillance operations.

Benjamin Grosser says “ScareMail” takes keywords from an extensive US Department of Homeland Security list used to troll social media websites and utilizes them “to disrupt the NSA’s surveillance efforts by making NSA search results useless.” 

The buzzwords include the likes of “Al-Qaeda” and “Al-Shabab,” yet also more mundane terms like“breach,” “threat,” “death” and “hostage,” among many others. 

While the political implications of this article are pretty obvious, the sociological implication of the 'ScareMail' effort is a whole different story.

"ScareMail reveals one of the primary flaws of the NSA’s surveillance efforts: words do not equal intent.” 

So how can this affect the NSA program? Well, over-using and flooding their servers with the same key words will essentially either slow or stall their search efforts.

But what are the implications of "Words do not Equal intent"? It's rather daunting to think of the issues this kind of societal mindset could bring. First of all, we couldn't trust anyone. What we say and what we do could be two completely different things. 

If law reflects the will of the people, and the law eventually dictates that words and documents of stated threats or red flags that indicate threats, then the world would become a much more complicated place.

Think about it. If words did not equal intent on all levels, would any contractual obligations mean anything? If you signed something that explicitly stated that you would comply with the given conditions you are signing for, would that even mean much of anything?

Society runs based on our words to each other. We can sign papers and give promises all we want. In the end, we choose to follow through and honor those promises. So if we chose to make our words and promises to mean nothing, how would that impact our society?