Originally published November 19 2014
Federal government to monitor Twitter, track conservative users, determine what is either 'true' or 'hate speech'
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) In August, The Washington Free Beacon, an investigative news website that focuses primarily on exposing government abuses of power, reported that the Obama Administration was committing $1 million in tax money to the creation of an online database that was to track "misinformation" and so-called "hate speech" on Twitter social media feeds.
The report noted that the project was being financed by the National Science Foundation (NSF) -- an "independent" agency created by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950, to "increase the Nation's base of scientific and engineering knowledge and strengthen its ability to conduct research in all areas of science and engineering," among other things, according to the Federal Register site of government agencies.
The aim of the NSF project was to create a web service designed to monitor "suspicious memes" and what project directors deemed "false and misleading ideas." A major focus, the WFB reported in August, was "political activity online."
The database is known as "Truthy" [see it here: Truthy.Indiana.edu], and it was created by researchers at the University of Indiana. It was designed to "detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution," the site said, according to WFB.
Claimed to be 'non-partisan'
"The project stands to benefit both the research community and the public significantly," the grant said. "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."
Continuing, it said, "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."
The name "Truthy" is derived from Comedy Central faux "news" host Steven Colbert's "truthiness."
The site claimed to be "nonpartisan," but, as the WFB reported in August, "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."
Weeks after the site launched, however, the WFB reported that researchers removed a part that was monitoring politically conservative hashtags. The WFB's Oct. 24 report noted:
Truthy has received increased media attention since Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai published an editorial last week warning that the project could be misused. "The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel," he wrote.
Pai pointed out that Truthy devoted a section of its website to tracking the use of hashtags such as #tcot, #teaparty, and #dems, evaluating "whether accounts are expressing 'positive' or 'negative' sentiments toward other users or memes."
'#TCOT most popular meme we track'
The October WFB report noted that the political topics page where that information was initially discovered online now brings up an error "404 Not Found" page [here: Truthy.Indiana.edu].
Accustomed to such trickery, Free Beacon staff took screenshots of the site in August, in order to document it in its previous form, "where it monitored hundreds of conservative Twitter users when they used #tcot." (For the record, TCOT means "Top Conservatives on Twitter")
The Truthy site recorded the amount and number of retweets, partisanship of the user and mentions, as well as "sentiment" and language used in the tweets.
The WFB reported that the Twitter accounts listed "included the Drudge Report, Ann Coulter, Byron York, and Fox and Friends. The top user listed was Pat Dollard, a conservative filmmaker. The user statistics page on #tcot has been deleted."
At that time, the Truthy site said #TCOT was the "most popular meme we track."
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