Fillipo Menczer, Ph.D. is a name you should know. It should be near the top of your stream of consciousness right now. It should be on the tip of your tongue at all times. It should be on your Google Alerts and in multiple places in your History search. He is Associate Professor of Informatics and Computer Science and the Associate Director of the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing. He also has courtesy appointments in Cognitive Science and Physics, and is affiliated with the Center for Data and Search Informatics, the Center for Security Informatics, and the Biocomplexity Institute. Finally he is a Fellow-at-large of the Santa Fe Institute and the Lagrange Senior Fellow at the ISI Foundation’s Complex Networks Lab in Torino, Italy.
And he has been a busy, busy little bee.
This is the man working in collusion with the United States government in the form of an almost $1 million dollar grant to track, monitor, and analyze your Twitter feed. Say hello to Truthy. It already knows you pretty well.
“Truthy” claims to be non-partisan. However, 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.
Author of such research gems as “Evolution of Online User Behavior During a Social Upheaval” and “Supporting a Social Media Observatory with Customizable Index Structures — Architecture and Performance”, he knows a thing or two about getting down to the brass tacks of how social media works and can be worked against you. The aim of Truthy is supposedly to “… detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.” Truthy relies on crowdsourcing to teach its database, and employs a “Truthy button” that users are supposed to click when they see a suspicious meme. The grant’s abstract claims that Truthy will “assist in the preservation of open debate” by detecting “hate speech and subversive propaganda.”
This has been happening for the past four years.
Examples of research to date include analyses of geographic and temporal patterns in movements like Occupy Wall Street, societal unrest in Turkey, the polarization of online political discourse, the use of social media data to predict election outcomes and stock market movements, and the geographic diffusion of trending topics. I have no doubt it was also a gold mine in the recent Ferguson coverage.
The Center for Complex Networks and System Research at Indiana University, home of Truthy, tells a different story. According to them, the media is on a witch hunt. “Their accusations are based on false claims, supported by bits of text and figures selectively extracted from our writings and presented completely out of context, in misleading ways. They did not bother to contact any of the researchers for comments before publishing these outlandish conspiracy theories. There is a good dose of irony in a research project that studies the diffusion of misinformation becoming the target of such a powerful disinformation machine.”
That is ironic. I wonder if they’re tracking it.
Mother of three boys, dedicated wife and homeschooler, and all-around Jill-of-all-trades. Also co-regional director of the West Texas region of Come And Take It Texas. Voted "Most Likely to Have Multiple Bug-Out Bags" in high school.
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