The federal government spent $1 million to create an online database that will collect “suspicious” memes and track “misinformation.” The project, which is known as the “Truthy Database” is being funded by The National Science Foundation, but it seems as if the operation has some powerful political motivations.
Ironically enough, the project takes its name from a term that was popularized by television personality, Stephen Colbert.
The project will seek to understand how misinformation is spread online, but it will be up to a team of government-funded researchers at Indiana University to decide what type of political speech is true and which is false.
According to the grant for the project, the operation will be open source and the database will be open to the public.
“The project stands to benefit both the research community and the public significantly. 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. 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.
However, the database has yet to actually go online, and they have not followed through with the promise of making their information open source.
The website for the project goes on to explain the importance of memes in their research, and their intentions to find out exactly where certain memes originate.
“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,” the website stated.
The project focuses on Twitter specifically, but will also be reaching into Facebook, Instagram and other sites in their data mining operations.
This may not be the most money that the government has spent on a frivolous project, but it shows that they really are willing to funnel large sums of money into programs that accomplish nothing. Also, this project exposes the extent of the federal government’s paranoia about dissent and alternative political information.
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