The Washington Free Beacon
reports that the software will:
"monitor 'suspicious memes' and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online."
The Indiana University website on the project boasts that the end product will:
“detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”
The university has received $919,917 so far for the project, according to the NSF award abstract.
Without ever defining its terms, the NSF description of the project says:
"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."
Named "truthy," the software will invite the public to participate in the identification of "suspicious memes." The Indiana University website, truthy.indiana.edu,
"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!"
The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees that:
"Congress shall make no law...abridging the freedom of speech..."
The US Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment covers speech which is unpopular, offensive, or disapproved of by the current government. Moreover, Constitutional scholars have held that speech which is unpopular one day may be popular the next. The sort of speech uttered by the instigators of the American Revolution, for example, would have been the very kind of speech that the government of that time would have sought to "abridge" and outlaw. US Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, in Lamont v. Postmaster General 381 U.S. 301 (1965)
, outlined the principle that acts by the government which tend to "chill" free speech, that is, inhibit it or discourage it, even though no law is against it, are unconstitutional abridgments of free speech.
In the Orwell novel 1984
, the Thought Police were a government unit whose job it was to uncover and punish "thoughtcrime." The Thought Police used surveillance and psychological monitoring to eliminate citizens whom they thought might challenge the ruling party's authority. In 2006, the Wall Street Journal reported
on an Israeli-developed system tested at Los Angeles International Airport which measured blood pressure, pulse and sweat levels as passengers answered questions in order to determine "hostile Intent."