Remember “AttackWatch,” the Obama campaign meme to get friends and families to rat each other out for the sake of politics?
Well, it’s back. Only, this time you and I are paying for it, as it has been brought inside the federal government.
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 project stands to benefit both the research community and the public significantly,” the grant states. “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,” it continues. “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,” the grant said.
“Subversive memes”…? Who gets to define what’s subversive, what is “hate speech” and what is and is not “propaganda?”
There’s a big clue in the name — Truthy — which is taken from Stephen Colbert’s leftwing parody of Bill O’Reilly.
There’s another big clue in what the government wants people to do with Truthy.
The government-funded researchers hope that the public will use their tool in the future to report on other Twitter users.
Pretty much everything that comes out of Barack Obama’s mouth is subversive propaganda. Some of his more acerbic attacks on Republicans can qualify as “hate speech.” But it doesn’t sound like that’s what Truthy is looking for.