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CHILL: Taxpayer-Funded Initiative Collected 600,000 Political Tweets in its ‘Database,’ Bragged About Having Conservative Twitter Accounts Suspended

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 reports: The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee sent a letter to the head of the National Science Foundation (NSF) on Monday, demanding answers about the origins of the nearly $1 million taxpayer-funded project to track “misinformation” on Twitter.

“The Committee and taxpayers deserve to know how NSF decided to award a large grant for a project that proposed to develop standards for online political speech and to apply those standards through development of a website that targeted conservative political comments.”

The Truthy project, being conducted by researchers at Indiana University, is under investigation for targeting political commentary on Twitter. The project monitors “suspicious memes,” “false and misleading ideas,” and “hate speech,” with a goal of one day being able to automatically detect false rumors on the social media platform.

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“While some have argued that Truthy could be used to better understand things like disaster communication or to assist law enforcement, instead it appears Truthy focused on examples of ‘false and misleading ideas, hate speech, and subversive propaganda’ communicated by conservative groups.”

— — Chairman Lamar Smith (R., Texas) in a letter to NSF Director France Cordova.

The web service has been used to track tweets using hashtags such as #tcot (Top Conservatives on Twitter), and was successful in getting accounts associated with conservatives suspended, according to a 2012 book co-authored by the project’s lead researcher, Filippo Menczer, a professor of Informatics and Computer Science at Indiana University. Read the rest of this entry »

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The ‘Truthy’ Project: Federal Agency Wants to Study ‘Social Pollution’ by Analyzing Twitter

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The NSF has already poured nearly $1 million into Truthy. To what end? Why is the federal government spending so much money on the study of your Twitter habits?

Ajit Paipai writes: 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’’?

“The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel.”

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.

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Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central. (Joel Hawksley/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

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 thatAPPROVED-non-stop-panic spread throughout pop culture — propagate. What types of social pollution are they targeting? “Political smears,” so-called “astroturfing” and other forms of “misinformation.”

“The federal government has no business spending your hard-earned money on a project to monitor political speech on Twitter.”

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.head

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. Read the rest of this entry »


The Sociology of Science

 “Scientists are not saints in white laboratory smocks — they’ve got interests like everybody else.”

— George Will, on Tuesday’s Special Report.

He also took issue with climate-change believers, such as the New Yorker, claiming such reports are “the last word” on the issue:

“Try that phrase — ‘the last word’ — on microbiology, quantum mechanics, physics, chemistry. Since when does science come to the end?”

National Review Online


One in Four Americans Unaware that Earth Circles Sun

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(AFP)—Americans are enthusiastic about the promise of science but lack basic knowledge of it, with one in four unaware that the Earth revolves around the Sun, said a poll out Friday.

The survey included more than 2,200 people in the United States and was conducted by the National Science Foundation.

Nine questions about physical and biological science were on the quiz, and the average score — 6.5 correct — was barely a passing grade.

Just 74 percent of respondents knew that the Earth revolved around the Sun, according to the results released at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Chicago.

Fewer than half (48 percent) knew that human beings evolved from earlier species of animals.

Read the rest of this entry »


Bring on the Draconian Cuts

Scalpel_in_handNRO’s Kevin Williamson writes: Hark, unless mine eyes are cheated, it appears that the House has passed a bill — on energy and water development — that would spend less money than we spent last year. Indeed, that is the case: The $30.4 billion bill is $2.9 billion less than was appropriated for 2013. If my always-suspect English-major math is correct, that $2.9 billion represents a full 0.08 percent of 2012 federal outlays.

The White House has threated to veto these “draconian cuts.” Seriously — OMB put out a statement calling these “draconian cuts.” Does anybody over there know what “draconian” means? Read the rest of this entry »