Speed Reads


Feds spend $1 million collecting 'suspicious memes'

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."