August 26, 2014

Through a National Science Foundation grant, the federal government is bankrolling a database of "suspicious memes" and other "false and misleading" political ideas posted on social media. So far, nearly $1 million has been spent on the plan, which is based at Indiana University and known as "Truthy," inspired by comedian Stephen Colbert's concept of "truthiness."

A major focus of the project is determining whether memes are created by professional political activists or regular internet users. Truthy's "About" page suggests that such content distributed by the "shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns" is just one example of "political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution" lurking on social networks. The ultimate goal of the project, as explained in the NSF grant, seems to include suppression of this content: "[Truthy] could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate." Bonnie Kristian

5:33 a.m. ET

Police officers have access to large amounts of personal information on you, and sometimes they misuse criminal-history and driver databases to find information about romantic or business partners, neighbors, fellow officers, politicians, and journalists, The Associated Press found in an investigation of police agencies in all 50 states. Between 2013 and 2015, AP says, officers and civilian employees at law enforcement agencies were disciplined — fired, suspended, or forced to resign — more than 325 times for misusing databases, and were reprimanded or sent to counseling more than 250 times.

"The misuse represents only a tiny fraction of the millions of daily database queries run legitimately during traffic stops, criminal investigations, and routine police encounters," note AP's Sadie Gurman and Eric Tucker, but the AP's tally "is unquestionably an undercount." The violations that do occur frequently involve an officer stalking a romantic interest or ex-lover. Police have access to "all your information," Alexis Dekany, an Ohio woman whose cop ex-boyfriend was convicted of stalking her last year, tells AP. "And when they use it for ill purposes to commit crimes against you — to stalk you, to follow you, to harass you... it just becomes so dangerous."

There is no foolproof way to prevent database abuse, experts say, due to the volume of queries and difficulty in discerning which searches are legitimate. "There's no system that could prohibit you from looking up your ex-wife's new boyfriend, because your ex-wife's new boyfriend could come in contact with the criminal justice system," Peggy Bell, head of Delaware's Criminal Justice Information System, tells AP. Police are people, and this free access to information is tempting. "A lot of people have complicated personal lives and very strong passions," says ACLU privacy expert Jay Stanley. "There's greed, there's lust, there's all the deadly sins. And often, accessing information is a way for people to act on those human emotions." You can learn more, and witness some cases of abuse, in the AP video below. Peter Weber

4:25 a.m. ET

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off in their first presidential debate on Monday night, and "a lot of people wanted this debate to be decisive, to change something," Stephen Colbert said on Tuesday's Late Show. "And today, everyone's trying to figure out who won. Which is kind of a silly question to ask, okay? Both sides are going to say they won." But how do you prove that? "This isn't the Olympics, there are no judges," Colbert said, "and if there were, the Russians would have given Trump a 10."

In the debate, Clinton immediately tried to get under Trump's skin, and "I've gotta say, she brought the orange peeler," Colbert said. "She got in there, man, first by using her nasty new nickname for Trump," Donald. "Apparently, Donald doesn't like being called Donald, do you Donald?" he asked. Now, Trump seemed to get under Clinton's skin a bit, too, like when he provoked the Clinton shimmy, Colbert said. "She may not have pneumonia, but she is showing all the signs of dance fever." After dancing, he returned to his original question: Who won?

The markets say Clinton — the peso rose, the price of gold slumped — as did a CNN/ORC poll Trump dismissed as partisan on Tuesday's Fox & Friends, where he bragged about winning a lot of online polls, name-checking one in particular. "Yeah, he won the CBS poll," Colbert said. "That's impressive, except for the fact that CBS did not conduct a post-debate poll.... But do you know what?" he asked. "Just because it doesn't exist doesn't mean he didn't win it. He's doing very well in Narnia. He got a firm endorsement from the Lollipop Guild." Trump also blamed moderator Lester Holt and his microphone — "Yes, there was clearly something terribly wrong with his microphone," Colbert deadpanned. "I mean, who left that thing on?" — and it turns out he was proudest of the one thing he did not say. Watch below. Peter Weber

3:34 a.m. ET

More than 80 million people watched Monday night's debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and some number of them were taking shots or chugging beers whenever one of the candidates said a certain word, or they played some other form of debate-related drinking games. But what if Clinton and Trump — who is a notorious teetotaler — had warmed up for the debate with a little hooch, or sipped from a flask when the cameras weren't looking? On Tuesday's Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel gave us a plausible, if too-brief, look at what could have been. Watch. Peter Weber

3:13 a.m. ET

One of the most remarkable things about the 2016 election is that the presidential nominees of both major parties, plus the Libertarian and Green candidates, think it was a big mistake for President George W. Bush to have invaded Iraq in 2003. This despite the fact that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton voted in 2002 to authorize Bush to invade if Saddam Hussein did not comply with demands, as did Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Mike Pence, then a congressman. (Clinton has called her vote a mistake; Pence apparently has not, and Trump doesn't care.) Donald Trump says he was always against the war, despite fact-checkers calling that an outright lie, and he doubled down during Monday's debate.

Trump shrugged off a 2002 comment he made on the radio when Howard Stern asked if he was in favor of invading Iraq — "Yeah, I guess so. You know, I wish the first time it was done correctly." — then said: "I then did an interview with Neil Cavuto. We talked about the economy as more important. I then spoke to Sean Hannity, which — everyone refuses to call Sean Hannity. I had numerous conversation with Sean Hannity at Fox. And Sean Hannity said, and he called me the other day. And I spoke to him about it. He said you were totally against the war, because he was for the war."

Hannity, an avid Trump supporter and informal adviser, did back Trump up about these private conversations after the debate, and on Tuesday, Fox News reposted the Cavulto clip, under the headline: "2003 clip backs up Trump on Iraq War opposition."

The interview, two months before Bush invaded, is classic Trump, with references to poll numbers and Gen. Douglas MacArthur. "They're getting a little bit tired of hearing 'We're going in, we're not going in,'" Trump said of the public. "You know, whatever happened to the days of Douglas MacArthur? I mean, he'd go and attack, he wouldn't talk. It's sort to, like, either do it or don't do it." Bush "has either gotta do something or not do something," Trump added. "Because perhaps he shouldn't be doing it yet. And perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations."

Debate moderator Lester Holt tried to prove that Trump backed the Iraq War, Fox News says, but "history backs The Donald." Except that Cavuto himself disagreed with that assessment in February 2016, the fact-checkers already accounted for that clip when they awarded Trump's anti-war claim "false" and "4 Pinocchios" ratings, and even Fox News elder statesman Brit Hume isn't buying it.

Is it possible that Trump and Hannity had late-night fights over the Iraq War in 2002? Sure, but if Trump publicly opposed the Iraq War — and you can read his known public statements at The Washington Post — or was among the hundreds of thousands of people marching against the invasion in the streets of New York, there's still no record of it. Peter Weber

2:16 a.m. ET

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has been dissected by pundits, reporters, average citizens, and now Seth Meyers, who believes there was a clear winner and loser at the end of the night.

Going into the debate, there was a double standard, Meyers said on Tuesday's Late Night. After rolling a clip of a conservative talk show host's advice to Clinton (don't laugh, don't smile, don't cough), he declared, "She has to act like a ninja bank robber weaving through a grid of red lasers. Meanwhile, Trump just has to be a C+ Walmart greeter." Based on the expectations his supporters helped set up, "all Trump had to do was be a normal person and he would have been declared the winner," Meyers said. "Yet he still managed to lose."

Trump wasn't prepared for the "most important 90 minutes of his campaign," Meyers continued, so he gave rambling non-answers about cyber warfare and terrorism and made a strange comment about the possibility that "somebody sitting on their bed weighing 400 pounds," not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee. "Trump is so superficial he even fat-shamed a dude he just made up," Meyers quipped. If he really wanted to make a splash, he said, Trump should have released his tax returns, rather than interrupt Clinton to say he's "smart" because he doesn't pay any federal income tax, and if he did, that money would be "squandered." "Oh, the government would squander your money?" Meyers asked. "Says the guy who covers his penthouse in gold like an old prospector who just won the lottery." Watch the video below. Catherine Garcia

1:10 a.m. ET

The polls were tightening to a near-tie before Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump debated Monday night, and on Tuesday night's Kelly File, Megyn Kelly asked election prognosticator Larry Sabato how he thinks the debate will affect each candidate's numbers. John Kerry and Mitt Romney won their first presidential debates, got bumps in the polls, then lost their elections, she noted.

"There's a reason why we have three debates," said Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics. After a bad first debate, like Trump had, "the story line can change and the candidates can improve their performance or deteriorate, depending on what they have learned from the first debate." More important than debates, however, are the political fundamentals, Sabato said, "and the thing that helps Donald Trump the most, and that's helped him all year long, is he's the change agent. We've had two terms of one party, and in modern times, we like to switch parties after eight years."

That's the good news for Trump and his supporters. David Plouffe, President Obama's former campaign manager, was less bullish on Trump's chances on Tuesday's Kelly File, telling Kelly that Trump absolutely will not win Pennsylvania and putting Clinton's odds of winning at "100 percent." He knows people think that's "crazy," Plouffe said (and Sabato agreed), "but I've been through this a couple times." Watch below. Peter Weber

12:55 a.m. ET
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Hillary Clinton is adding another Republican to her endorsement list: Former Sen. John Warner of Virginia.

A Clinton campaign aide told The Washington Post that Warner, 89, will announce his support at an event Wednesday in Alexandria with Clinton's running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). While Warner, a World War II veteran and former U.S. Navy secretary and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has gone against the party before — he opposed the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork and endorsed the Democrat running for his seat rather than the Republican — this is the first time he is endorsing a Democrat for president.

Warner retired in 2009 with high approval rates, and was known for his extensive knowledge of national security affairs. "I am proud to have John's support, and to know that someone with his decades of experience would trust me with the weighty responsibility of being commander in chief," Clinton told the Post in a statement. Catherine Garcia

See More Speed Reads