Feds Funding “Truthy” But Don’t Define Propaganda

The National Science Foundation provided a grant to Indiana University to study the following:

Meme Diffusion Through Mass Social Media  The grant for $ 919, 917.00  was started July 1, 2011 and is scheduled to run through June 30, 2015

A meme is a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one person to another by non-genetic means (as by imitation). The term was initially coined by Richard Dawkins in his book Selfish Gene (1976)

The benefits of the project are listed below

The project stands to benefit both the research community and the public significantly. Our data will be made available via 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.

Propaganda Meaning? 

Reading this paragraph opens a floodgate of unanswered questions.

Who gets to define hate speech?

Who gets to define false and misleading ideas?

Who gets to define propaganda or even subversive propaganda?

How does identification of above terms lead to the preservation of open debate in this society?

Why are they making this information available via API?

Who would use this information and for what reasons?

Why are the top twitter users being identified and the public asked to id them as sending out truth or spam?

The Truth Meter: Sound Ominously Orwellian?

Investigators are soliciting responses from the public to id information as “truthy” or spam “to detect persuasion or spam campaigns”.

Using their site you can select a meme and label it “truthy” or “spam” then tweet it to your followers.

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Or you can select a user…

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It all seems so …well kindergartenish.

Encouraging people to make labeling decisions about complex ideas with no criteria except perhaps- “I like these ideas and so I will call them ‘truthy’” or” I don’t like these ideas so I will call them ‘ spam’”, is rather disturbing.

Does ‘spam’ mean ‘false’ or ’subversive propaganda’?

Does ‘truthy’ even mean true?

I spent a substantial amount of time on the site and did not find any meaningful propaganda definitions or criteria for discriminating between the two labels.

On the other hand, maybe it should be seen as severely destructive and massively anti-free speech. The information could easily be used to mobilize people to label ideas, officially disproved of, as tainted in some way and to discredit them without any basis in fact.

Labeling complex ideas on the basis of two terms whose meaning are not explained is beginning to sound like a common core homework assignment!

Two Sides of The Story

Here are the headlines and videos from 2 major news outlets,  Fox News and The Wall Street Journal.

Feds Creating Online Tracker to Search for ‘Hate Speech’ & ‘Misinformation’

The “Truthy” Project Ferrets Out Online Deception


The lead investigator Filippo Menczer, walked it all back,  after the Kelly file interview. He now says on his website.

Truthy is not intended and is not capable to determine whether a statement constitutes “misinformation. The target is the study of the structural patterns of information diffusion.

For example, an email sent simultaneously to a million addresses is likely spam, even if we have no automatic way to determine whether its content is true or false. The assumption behind the Truthy effort is that an understanding of the spreading patterns may facilitate the identification of abuse, independent from the nature or political color of the communication.

The Truthy platform is not informed by political partisanship. While it provides support to study the evolution of communication in all portions of the political spectrum, the machine learning algorithms used to identify suspicious patterns of information diffusion are entirely oblivious to the possibly [possible] political partisanship of the messages.”

The key to determining the partisan nature of the project might be found in the gallery of memes.  According to commentary on the truthy.indiana.edu website

http://bit.ly/PackYourBags is a meme that promotes a propaganda video. Some may consider the content of the video ‘truthy.'” 

Here is the “propaganda video” 

Check out our infographic for a definition of propaganda


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Micheal Winston
Micheal Winston

PropagandaGuard was created for the purpose of alerting citizens to the ever present dangers of propaganda, helping them to recognize and protect themselves and families from its corrupting effects. You cannot protect yourself from things which you are not aware. Understanding does not stem from a simple dictionary or wikipedia definition. In the end, the question you must answer is...Have you made your way out of the Matrix?