Patterico's Pontifications

10/19/2014

Federally Funded Study to Examine Your Dangerous Free Speech

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:27 am



There appears to be one sane person on the FCC, and he is raising alarms about the way the federal government is using your taxpayer money to study the alarming ways in which you are using your so-called right to free speech:

If you take to Twitter to express your views on a hot-button issue, does the government have an interest in deciding whether you are spreading “misinformation’’? If you tweet your support for a candidate in the November elections, should taxpayer money be used to monitor your speech and evaluate your “partisanship’’?

My guess is that most Americans would answer those questions with a resounding no. But the federal government seems to disagree. The National Science Foundation, a federal agency whose mission is to “promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; and to secure the national defense,” is funding a project to collect and analyze your Twitter data.

The project is being developed by researchers at Indiana University, and its purported aim is to detect what they deem “social pollution” and to study what they call “social epidemics,” including how memes — ideas that spread throughout pop culture — propagate. What types of social pollution are they targeting? “Political smears,” so-called “astroturfing” and other forms of “misinformation.”

Named “Truthy,” after a term coined by TV host Stephen Colbert, the project claims to use a “sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex network models” to distinguish between memes that arise in an “organic manner” and those that are manipulated into being.

But there’s much more to the story. Focusing in particular on political speech, Truthy keeps track of which Twitter accounts are using hashtags such as #teaparty and #dems. It estimates users’ “partisanship.” It invites feedback on whether specific Twitter users, such as the Drudge Report, are “truthy” or “spamming.” And it evaluates whether accounts are expressing “positive” or “negative” sentiments toward other users or memes.

A federally funded study of online political discourse that owes its name to a term used by a leftist? What could go wrong?

The Truthy team says this research could be used to “mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate.”

Hmm. A government-funded initiative is going to “assist in the preservation of open debate” by monitoring social media for “subversive propaganda” and combating what it considers to be “the diffusion of false and misleading ideas”? The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel.

. . . .

Some possible hints as to Truthy’s real motives emerge in a 2012 paper by the project’s leaders, in which they wrote ominously of a “highly-active, densely-interconnected constituency of right-leaning users using [Twitter] to further their political views.”

And there we have it. They’re spending your money to warn the world about the way you are expressing your political opinions. In this way, they can keep false and misleading ideas from being spread — you know, like those “false” claims that ObamaCare could lead to government rationing and death panels, or that Ebola exposure could result from being three feet away from someone for a prolonged period of time.

We must keep such lies from spreading and infecting the public. And we must use taxpayer money to do it.

It is for the greater good, citizen.

13 Responses to “Federally Funded Study to Examine Your Dangerous Free Speech”

  1. Ding.

    Patterico (d4f6b7)

  2. #ATTACK WATCH

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  3. “I pledge allegiance to the Democratic President of the United States”. Start memorizing people.

    felipe (40f0f0)

  4. And of course we know they would be fair and balanced in their weighing the factors and deciding who is dangerous and who is not.

    And they would never abuse the system or use it for personal gain or to advance a particular agenda.

    That would just be wrong.

    (glad to see someone fixed the blown out comment box. Kudos and thanx.)

    jakee308 (d409c2)

  5. #subversion

    Kevin M (b357ee)

  6. Named “Truthy,” after a term coined by TV host Stephen Colbert, the project claims to use a “sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex network models” to distinguish between memes that arise in an “organic manner” and those that are manipulated into being.

    So allow me to hazard a guess as to where the government-academia-media axis is going to come down on this: worries about ISIS or Ebola are totally manipulated into being by angry racist conservatives, but worries about the “epidemic” of sexual assualt against women on college campuses are totally organic and not in the least bit manufactured by advocates.

    JVW (60ca93)

  7. It seems to me that this kind of knowledge would be helpful to people of any political stripe who want to influence public perception, whether it is to distort or clarify the truth.
    But to me it seems there is a long list of things the government should be funding first, like the debt.

    MD in Philly (f9371b)

  8. IF YOU SEE SOMETHING – SAY SOMETHING

    daleyrocks (bf33e9)

  9. That one sane man was the one who discovered the plan to invade newsrooms too to “analyze” their operations.

    He was appointed by Mitch McConnell. It’s about time conservatives were appointed to the bureaucracy. Look at the madness this one man has stopped already!

    Patricia (5fc097)

  10. “If only Comrade Stalin were aware of this problem..”

    Mike K (90dfdc)

  11. worries about ISIS or Ebola are totally manipulated into being by angry racist conservatives

    Oh come on. ISIS and Ebola aren’t even real.

    SarahW (267b14)

  12. TRUTHIST!

    SarahW (267b14)

  13. Put not your trust in princes…

    On an unrelated note-wasn’t Colbert referring to faithfulness to worldview (and thus narrative), rather than accuracy?

    Ibidem (35e6ce)


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