Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

Summary: The Department of Defense is investing millions in a social media project to analyse "the spread of ideas" and "identify participants".

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According to Time, the U.S. Department of Defense is working on a new initiative to track information -- and misinformation -- across the Twittersphere, in order to collect valuable intelligence.

Though this new initiative will focus on social media as a whole, from citizen journalism through to publicly available content from social networks, it is believed to focus mostly on Twitter as a goldmine of potential intelligence.

(Image via Flickr)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a subsidiary of the Department of Defense, spends millions on weapons development to major technological breakthroughs.

DARPA's latest initiative -- prepare for another glorious acronym -- is the SMISC, the Social Media in Strategic Communications project, designed to "develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base".

The project has four objectives, as set out by DARPA:

  1. Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.
  2. Recognise persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social mediasites and communities.
  3. Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns.
  4. Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations.

In effect, the spread of information on Twitter and social media is to be mapped out and analysed, to understand where information comes from, how information becomes 'misinformation' and measure how powerful the role of citizen journalism and social media is.

It was Twitter, granted unbeknown to the user, which was used in the reporting of the death of Osama bin Laden.

Revolutions during the Arab Spring were spurred on by social media, and in some cases instigated the mass uprising of citizens' against their governments.

The activities on Twitter and the impact it can have on democracy and world events is enough to spook -- excuse the pun -- the U.S. government.

Costing up to $42 million, it will take quite a chunk out of the defense budget.

It also appears, from point 4, that the project is looking at ways of countering the mass-effects of tweeting information; almost like 'playing telephone' on a vast scale.

As one publication put it: "Big Brother just signed up for a Facebook account".

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  • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

    The use of "twitter" and "intelligence" together in any sentence without the word "lack" is disturbing.

    I think DARPA should go back to that artificial cat brain it was working on.

    #1, #2 and #3 don't seem to fall within the usefulness of a defense department, and #4 is best left to intelligence organizations. Even then, the temptation to use these psyops domestically to encourage support for military operations or the chance of unintentionally influencing domestic citizenry or media through blowback (twitback?) is strong.
    jgm@...
  • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

    They sound desperate.
    great-ish-soul
  • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

    "Costing up to $42 million, it will take quite a chunk out of the defense budget." This would be "quite a chunk" for most of us, but for the DoD it's .0062% of their 2010 budget.
    stancube
  • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

    In order to balance the US Budget and restore prosperity for everyday Americans it is necessary to curb the budget of the Pentagon and cease to attempt to be the World's policeman.

    I am sure the British would have like to do what the Department of Defense proposes above. In fact King George wanted the platen of every press in America to have a unique identifier so he could track the source of all political communications.

    Fortunately the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights recognized citizens rights of anonymous speech. For that reason we need to repeal unconstitutional campaign laws that have eroded this right!

    Write your Congressmen and Senators and demand the restoration of your right to participate in the politics of America. And demand the Department of Defense be restrained from implementing Big Brother projects.

    Read the Bill of Rights and you will find only Congress can violate the 1st Amendment. The only thing the 1st Amendment does is prohibit Congress from passing laws abridging freedom of speech, press and assembly. Campaign laws are 100% contrary to this prohibition.

    I leave you with a couple of Jefferson quotes:

    ?Every generation needs a new revolution.?
    Thomas Jefferson quotes (American 3rd US President (1801-09). Author of the Declaration of Independence. 1762-1826)


    ?The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.?
    Thomas Jefferson
    Repeal
    • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

      @Repeal Where do you see a right to anonymous speech in the 1st amendment? You have a right to not be prosecuted for political speech, but anonymous?

      You then contradict yourself with your final paragraph about the bill of rights. "Campaign laws are 100% contrary to this prohibition." What campaign laws? Huh?
      jgm@...
  • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

    Fourty-two million dollars is not a chunk. Fourty-two billion would be. Jeez. Does anyone think anymore before speaking or blogging?
    dongle218
  • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

    I love the comments from people that haven't attended the Industry Day on this project. If you saw the videos about what the opposition was doing, you would understand the project and it's purpose.
    Fr0gM@...
    • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

      @Fr0gM@... Or... if you felt you could explain them better than the author, you could have just tried to do so rather than attempt to make the posters sound uninformed.
      jgm@...
  • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

    It's like constipation. After a while it occupies most of your attention.
    trm1945
  • RE: Department of Defense to invest millions in 'Twitter tracking'

    Everyone claims that "thinking outside the box" is great, unless, of course, they don't like who's doing the thinking.
    Lazarus439Z