Personal Liberty Poll
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is backing the creators of a Web-based service that intends to monitor Twitter to “mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas,” an effort its backers assert will “assist in the preservation of open debate.”
The NSF has awarded nearly $1 million to the project, the vision of Indiana University researchers who assert the service will be a nonpartisan effort to inform the public of who on Twitter is sharing right ideas — and who isn’t.
From The Washington Free Beacon on Monday:
The federal government is spending nearly $1 million to create an online database that will track “misinformation” and hate speech on Twitter.
The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”
…“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,” the grant said.
…“Truthy” claims to be non-partisan. However, the project’s lead investigator Filippo Menczer proclaims his support for numerous progressive advocacy groups, including President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, Moveon.org, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, and True Majority.
The name, Truthy, is a take on a term satirizing conservatives and popularized by “The Colbert Report.”
“The name Truthy comes from a term coined by Stephen Colbert, truthiness, which describes claims that feel like they ought to be true, but aren’t necessarily,” the project’s FAQ site explains. “Our first application was the study of astroturf campaigns in elections; ideas spread by astroturf techniques are typically truthy.”
How does it work? By asking Twitter users to look over their neighbors’ shoulders. “We also plan to use Truthy to detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution,” the creators state.
“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!”
Here’s the NSF award abstract indicating the government’s commitment to getting this program off the ground.