The U.S. federal government has spent almost $1 million in the creation of an online database that has been designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution” on Twitter.
The project, which is called Truthy (in homage to “truthiness”, a term coined by Stephen Colbert), was established in September 2010 and is backed by the National Science Foundation. Truthy tracks how memes spread online by collecting a random sample of tweets and analysing their contents.
Created by researchers at Indiana University, Truthy has received $919,917 in grant funding to date.
“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 states.
In the future the Truthy research team hope that the public will use the tool to report on other Twitter users.
“Truthy uses a sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex networks models,” the team writes on their website. “To train our algorithms, we leverage crowdsourcing: we rely on users like you to flag injections of forged grass-roots activity. Therefore, click on the Truthy button when you see a suspicious meme!”