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Big Truthy is watching (some of) you

Tribune-Review
| Sunday, November 16, 2014 9:00 p.m

Last week, President Obama launched a social media campaign on behalf of “net neutrality” and urged the FCC to “keep the Internet free and open.” The man has gall.

This is the same speech-squelcher whose administration snooped on reporters; audited tea party activists and slow-walked the probe into the IRS witch hunt against them; entertained a government scheme to monitor story selection in TV newsrooms; and forked over $1 million to a researcher building a Twitter-snooping database.

Last Monday, House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, requested that the National Science Foundation send him all information about how and why the taxpayer-subsidized “Truthy” data-mining project came into existence. Its lead researcher is Filippo Menczer — professor of informatics and computer science and the director of the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing, now on sabbatical at Yahoo! Labs.

Menczer and Indiana University deny that Truthy is a “political watchdog, a government probe of social media, an attempt to suppress free speech or limit political speech or develop standards for online political speech, a way to define ‘misinformation,’ a partisan political effort, a system targeting political messages and commentary connected to conservative groups, a mechanism to terminate any social media accounts, a database tracking hate speech.”

But Menczer himself admits the project arose after he learned about a conservative Twitter bomb campaign against failed Senate Democrat candidate Martha Coakley in 2010. And the Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington reports that 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.”

In presentations to academic groups, Menczer has highlighted his team’s research on conservative groups, individuals and hashtags. At Harvard University’s “Truthiness Conference” in March 2012, for example, he showed his audience the results of monitoring the hashtag “#obamacare” and singled out The Heritage Foundation for using it. His database mined information on who was retweeting #obamacare-labeled tweets and pinpointed “patterns of propagation.”

The goal, Menczer explained, is to “detect” Twitter users’ themes and memes “early before damage is done.” Nope, no political goals there.

Menczer claims that “almost all of the most popular hashtags, the most active accounts, and the most tweeted URLs, are from the right. We looked really hard for any ‘truthy’ memes from the left.” Look harder, pal.

As conservative radio giant Rush Limbaugh and his staff discovered, the social media boycott campaign against his show for the past several years has been spearheaded by only 10 Twitter users who account for almost 70 percent of all “StopRush” tweets to advertisers.

Yet, there hasn’t been a peep about the insidious #StopRush smear campaign from Menczer and his Obama administration-backed liberal snitch squad. It’s time for some truth in Truthy advertising.

Michelle Malkin is the author of “Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks and Cronies.”

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