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Your Tax Dollars Are Funding a Database of Political Tweets, 'Misinformation'

If you Tweet this story, please watch your manners, get all you facts straight, and don't create any inorganic memes. Thanks.

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Obama Twitter
Pete Souza / White House

The federal government is sponsoring a creepy social media research project: The aim is to produce a database of politically disfavored tweets, misinformation, and "other social pollution." The grant for the project—made by the National Science Foundation to Indiana University—was discovered by The Washington Free Beacon's Elizabeth Harrington, who writes:

The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor "suspicious memes" and what it considers "false and misleading ideas," with a major focus on political activity online.

The "Truthy" database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to "detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution."

The university has received $919,917 so far for the project.

The fact that the project is called Truthy—the word Stephen Colbert used back in 2005 to lambaste Republicans' distortions of facts—is the first hint about its political leanings. The next comes courtesy of the project's explanation on its own website:

We also plan to use Truthy to detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution. While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns. 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!

The above passage reeks of a people-who-disagree-with-me-are-liars perspective. What counts as a political smear, and why do smears automatically count as social pollution? What's the difference between an organic and inorganic meme? Is "forged grass-roots activity" just a synonym for "Koch stuff"?

The grant's abstract claims that Truthy will "assist in the preservation of open debate" by detecting "hate speech and subversive propaganda." Those seem like conflicting goals, even if pursued in a totally apolitical way.

Do Americans really want the government to sponsor a website that collects their Tweets and determines whether they are socially harmful? Like it or not, taxpayers have already contributed nearly $1 million to such a project.

If you Tweet this story, please watch your manners, get all you facts straight, and don't create any inorganic memes. Thanks.

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  1. I think I just read the first entry to this “truthy” database.

    1. If you thought Cash for Clunkers was popular, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

      1. But… but? but what I wanna know, is this: Are genetically engineered memes considered to be organic memes, or inorganic memes, as long as the genetic engineers are VERY careful to use only ORGANIC materials in their engineering efforts?

        1. Upon further consideration I have concluded that “organic” v/s “inorgasmic” memes have NADA to do with the nature of the engineered ingredients, it has EVERYTHING to do with, are the engineers progressive followers of Comrade Chairman Obama, or are they Kulaks, wreckers, or saboteurs? Anyone who disagrees with me, that the creations of Kulaks, wreckers, and saboteurs are obviously inorgasmic, will need to attend a re-education facility near you?

  2. Social Pollution. Good name for a band.

    1. Perfect name for the political class.

    2. You’re gonna piss off Social Distortion though.

  3. The protection money you pay to the mob is used to fund ongoing criminal activities

    …okay.

  4. Those seem like conflicting goals, even if pursued in a totally apolitical way.

    They are perfectly compatible if you think of any dissent as being hateful and subversive.

  5. While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns.

    Memes started by members of the Obama administration are exempted, of course.

    1. #BringBackOurGirls #StinkBurger #MeanieSandwich #MeanderingSlurpyAnalogy #WhereAreTheGrownups

    2. I wonder if truthy will pick up the “If you like your health plan, you can keep it”? Of the most recent misinformation from the Obama administration, that has to be the most obvious. 🙂

      1. Bah. It’s special pleading all the way down.

  6. Man a government filled with Communist sympathizers is pulling this shit. I am teh surprize.

  7. We’d be a utopia if not for all the wreckers and kulaks on twitter.

  8. social pollution.

    This is pure Commie shit. Will the wreckers and saboteurs be next?

  9. #BringBackOurFreedom /just as effective.

  10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Soviet_agitation

    1.propaganda or agitation with the purpose of undermining or weakening of the Soviet power or with the purpose of committing or incitement to commit particularly grave crimes against the Soviet state (as defined in the law);
    2.the spreading with the same purposes of slanderous fabrications that target the Soviet political and social system;
    3.production, dissemination or storage, for the same purposes, of literature with anti-Soviet content

  11. 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!

    *** rising intonation ***

    I think I detect a “solution” to Truthy.

    *** sobering up ***

    Clicking on the button *is* anonymous, right?

    1. It almost certainly is tied to some kind of account. If it isn’t, I guarantee they’ll have to change it very quickly.

      1. There’s always mailinator.

  12. This is the webpage of the “lead investigator” of this “non-partisan” project. Look at the charity links at the bottom.

    Seems like he’s surely coming from a position with no biases at all. Definitely not.

    1. Necro-Menczer

    2. Wow. They actually link to that page from his university bio page. Incredible.

      1. It gave me a flashback to the web of the mid-’90s.

        1. Yea, it was pretty bad. But, It was pretty good at showing the full circle of our tax dollars at work.

          1). Support barackobama.com.
          2). Get 1 million in federal research grants from Barrack Obama’s administration.
          3). Research political misinformation to find Hillary’s vast right wing conspiracy just in time for ’16.
          4). Profit.

          1. But science is “objective”!

    3. 3 of his 15 I would donate to. But, yes, seems like more motivated research.

    4. Who could have predicted progressives would be behind it?

  13. WTF do you even say anymore?

    #waronparody

    1. A wise man once wrote:

      What else should I be – All apologies
      What else should I say – Everyone is gay
      What else should I write – I don’t have the right
      What else should I be – All apologies

      1. A wise man once wrote:

        Nothing that man said or did was, in any way, wise.

  14. I may have missed it but did Reason have anything on one of Snowden’s leaks that the US government intentionally fed UFO-ologists false info and cooked-up encounters just for amusement?

    Pretty funny, if so….

    1. The KGB did a lot of this. Its very harmful when people still think AIDS was a CIA plot.

      They also would show foreign leaders “intercepts” of CIA documents that were complete forgeries.

      South American leaders would totally buy this stuff.

  15. Let’s take all of the worst aspects of the Nixon administration and incorporate and update them. Way to go left!

    1. Let’s take all of the worst aspects of the Nixon administration and incorporate and update them. Way to go left!

      This is a surprise?

      1. Not at all

    2. The things that Nixon hid from the public can be done openly by any president today.

      1. Like IRS targeting political foes?

  16. This isn’t creepy as shit or anything. No matter how hard they try, TEAM BLUE just keeps coming back to the same wells: demonization of political opponents, creation of thoughtcrime, and asking people to report on anyone who commits thoughtcrime.

    Lovely.

    1. Well, I mean they are commies. So isn’t this what they are supposed to do? At least they aren’t even trying to hide it anymore.

    2. Ohhhh… I missed the “reporting” on others part. I read it, I just didn’t digest it, It was indigestible.

      I’m probably going to be sick. now, thanks.

  17. MOST TRANSPARENT AND FISCALLY RESPONSIBLE ADMINISTRATION EVAH!!!111!!111! !!!111!!!11!!1!1!!!!!11!11!!1!!111!!1!! ELEVENTY-ONE-HUNDRED-INFINITY!!1

  18. If their database doesn’t include “Nothing left to cut”, then I might be a little suspicious . . . .

    1. For example, $919,917?

  19. This is fucked up in a major way, for lots of reasons. One of them is that there is no scientifically objective way to define “social pollution” and the other bull shit they claim to be looking for. This is giant psuedo-science circle jerk. Disgusting.

  20. “Misinformation”, like O-care sucks?

  21. ” Therefore, click on the Truthy button when you see a suspicious meme!”

    No way this could go badly for them. I mean, it would be impossible for this to be used against them. Nope. No way. Not a chance. Nothing could go wrong.

    Jesus titty fuckin’ christ, proggies are morons. Just when you think they couldn’t possibly get any creepier they prove you wrong.

    1. Getting creepier has been this administration’s hallmark. Remember the appeals for campaign donations?

      (gets chills)

      1. You aren’t getting a tingly feeling creeping up your leg?

        1. That’s just syphylus.

    2. Maybe he will actually try to have unbiased research.

      On the other hand, he could have someone (I’m sure he can’t program himself) write software that just throws out anything he supports.

  22. Definately creepy.

    It’s a futile wish, but I’d like the algorithm to at least be made public. It’s definately going to be biased towards the state, but just how much? Also, what will be done with the information exactly? I’m guessing step 2 is that “internet kill switch” that gets brought up every now and then, and the Truthy algorithm is what trips it.

    1. I’m guessing step 2 is that “internet kill switch” that gets brought up every now and then, and the Truthy algorithm is what trips it.

      That’s is too dumb even for this administration. A setup like that is basically equivalent to giving every A-list celebrity the ability to shut down the internet by stating something that falls afoul of the filter.

      Most likely it’ll be used to spot red team memes in their early stages and report them to blue team spin doctors. Not unlike what’s probably already in place, but this time paid for with your tax dollars.

      1. “Most likely it’ll be used to spot red team memes in their early stages and report them to blue team spin doctors. Not unlike what’s probably already in place, but this time paid for with your tax dollars.”

        ^^^^^^this^^^^^^

        1. In case anyone has not been noticing, the Democrats have become very, very adept at “laundering” tax dollars into NGO’s that support them.

          Healthcare navigators, for example. Those grants will never go away. They will fund Democratic foot soldiers during off-years. Their highly paid heads will donate maxed out to Dems.

          Then there is the ad budgets. They can go to friendly ad agencies who will also produce campaign ads.

          They have taken this to a new level.

          1. It is a new and if the past is any indicator the next step will not be to end the practice, but for Red Team to expand upon it and their ‘fair share’. The government’s left and right hand will both be doling out taxpayer dollars.

  23. Social pollution? Dude, you never go full Godwin!

  24. The little fucker standing off to the side makes me think of Nurse from A Dance With Dragons.

  25. Out of the four principal researchers on the project, 3 are Italian and 1 is Belgian. It’s not like we’re dealing with firm understanding of the profound and deep respect Anglo-American culture has for free speech here.

    1. And they are in charge of detecting whether a political meme is “misinformation” or not? Because of their long experience with the subtleties of American politics?

      1. Because it will be familiar to them, given their European heritage.

        1. Its a bit sickening to have to root for the Belgian to be the final line of defense.

  26. The university has received $919,917 so far for the project.

    Why such a strangely exact figure?

    1. Round numbers look suspicious, a random bullshit number seems less made up the more precise it is. I’m surprised they didn’t say $919,917.86

  27. “Your Tax Dollars Are Funding a Database of Political Tweets, ‘Misinformation'”

    I would have been shocked if this were not true.

    1. I actually misread the headline.

      I interpreted as, we’re paying for political tweets and misinformation [from the whitehouse]. I was all, “duh”.

  28. AttackWatch by any other name…

    1. Was that the really creepy commie looking website they did that totally backfired on them?

  29. I wouldn’t worry too much about it, everyone with an account here is already on The List.

    1. Yeah, the funny thing is they are wasting their time on Twitter when all of the true threats to the great utopian state that awaits us, are right here on H&R, rum amok! Bwaahhahhaaaahhaaa, buwooohaahahhahhahhaha!

  30. That will get those filthy global warming, I mean, climate change, deniers!

    1. Even if the Feds weren’t cutting IU in for an approx $1m of loot, and it was all coming from other sources, the fact that it’s the Government of the state of Indiana University means that junk like this inevitably happens. Fed subsidies just make it happen faster.

      The older I get, the more I am convinced that privatizing all educational institutions is imperative to recover lost liberties and preserve the few we still have.

      Media, religion, communication and schooling* all should be out-of-bounds for taxpayer subsidy and government regulation or ownership.

      Kevin R

      *Privatizing the military academies might be tough.

  31. We also plan to use Truthy to detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.

    Thought police? I’d cite the founding charter of the federal government of the united States, but it won’t make a difference.

  32. Jack sammy said that is a pretty good deal.

    http://www.AnonCrypt.tk

  33. Hah, a real Ministry of Truth. Orwell looks pretty fucking smart in retrospect.

  34. I remember when Nancy Pelosi called the Tea Party demonstrations astro-turf before the 2010 November elections.

  35. what can i say…

    commies gonna commie.

    -FFM

  36. Jonah Goldberg was right to have the smiley face on his Liberal Fascism book. Calling this program Truthy is proof.

  37. The fact that the project is called Truthy?the word Stephen Colbert used back in 2005 to portray Republicans’ use of facts as lies?is the first hint we have that the author of this piece is just as susceptible to the subtle corruptions that work their way into ‘common knowledge’ all the time.

    Fixed that for you.

  38. As the ever-popular online news commentary website Disqus has already proven, when you put a button on comments that allows people to take punitive action against other online people free of consequence they will do so when they disagree with the commenters point of view.

    I find it very unlikely to impossible that such a service as ‘Truthy’ will be anything more than another way to shut down free speech online.

    Apparently, speech is only free when you agree with liberal progressives. Otherwise it’s the sword for you, as per usual.

    The icing on the cake is the idea that you could even find a way to track down when or where a meme begins on the internet. That assertion is ludicrous but I know at least one University researcher was just handed the holy grail of non-work by the U.S. Government.

    I’m sure that was the end goal all along.

  39. my best friend’s mother makes $66 /hr on the computer . She has been without work for 7 months but last month her payment was $13283 just working on the computer for a few hours. go…..

    ?????? http://WWW.JOBSAA.COM

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