Feds Spend $1 Million To Track ‘Misinformation’ And Hate Speech On Twitter

Tara Dodrill - Author

Dec. 25 2017, Updated 5:02 p.m. ET

The federal government spent $1 million to create a database to track hate speech and “misinformation” on Twitter. The National Science Foundation is behind the creation of the online government monitoring project. The database will reportedly include searches for “suspicious memes,” “false and misleading ideas” and will place particular focus on online political activity.

The $1 million Truthy database will be created by Indiana University researchers. The taxpayer-funded database is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution,” according to the Washington Free Beacon.

Excerpt from the government grant being used to monitor Twitter:

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“The project stands to benefit both the research community and the public significantly. Our data will be made available via [application programming interfaces] APIs and include information on meme propagation networks, statistical data, and relevant user and content features. The open-source platform we develop will be made publicly available and will be extensible to ever more research areas as a greater preponderance of human activities are replicated online. Additionally, we will create a web service open to the public for monitoring trends, bursts, and suspicious memes. This service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech, and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate.”

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Posting derogatory statements online is surely not nice, but this is America and citizens have the right to free speech. While hate speech, comments can cause hurt feelings, those who cherish and respect the Constitution have vowed to fight for the First Amendment rights of all citizens, despite how distasteful their words, phrases or views may be. The federal government funding of the Truthy database to monitor political comments, hate speech and alleged suspicious memes on Twitter reeks of Big Brother tactics, according to many opponents.

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The project website also says that while many memes are created in a “perfectly organic manner,” others are allegedly driven by the “shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns.” Free speech advocates say, “so what” to the organic vs. organized meme creation. If a political advocacy group makes a Barack Obama golf meme, will they wind up in the government-funded database? According to the description and focus of the Truthy database project, the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

The Truthy database project is billed as a non-partisan effort, but the “lead investigator” on the project is reportedly involved with a multitude of progressive or liberal groups, Filippo Menczer has reportedly uttered support for Moveon.org, Amnesty International, and President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, among other groups. Filippo Menczer is also a computer science and informatics professor at Indiana University. Links to the political and activists groups the Truthy database leader supports are posted on his bio page at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research. Menczer’s page also says that he is on sabbatical at Yahoo! Labs for the 2014-15 academic year. The $1 million grant funded by the taxpayers runs during the same year.

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Perhaps one of the most disturbing aspects of the Twitter monitoring project is the “reporting” of suspicious posts tool:

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“Truthy uses a sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex networks models. To train our algorithms, we leverage crowdsourcing: we rely on users like you to flag injections of forged grass-roots activity. Therefore, click on the Truthy button when you see a suspicious meme!”

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What do you think about the government sponsored Twitter monitoring project?

[Image Via: Shutterstock.com]


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