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Your tweets are being monitored at taxpayer expense–well, only if you’re a conservative

November 25, 2014

My latest essay for Minding the Campus:

Fil Menczer

Filippo Menczer: detonator of right-wing Twitter-bombs

The“Truthy” project at Indiana University should have set off alarm bells right at the start. Described as a research project to study how memes spread on social media, it was created in 2010 by university computer science professor Filippo Menczer, and began tracking “suspicious memes,” and “false or misleading ideas” on Twitter. So far it has focused almost exclusively on conservative tweets, websites, and hashtags.

The taxpayer-funded National Science Foundation gave Menczer’s project a research grant of nearly $1 million—even though Menczer’s own grant materials used such loaded phrases as “hate speech” and disclosed a plan to allow members of “the public” to monitor and report on other people’s tweets in a Red Guard-style hunt for “subversive propaganda.”

When negative publicity hit the project, the university allowed Menczer to delete or make private sensitive Indiana University-supported web pages connected to Truthy, on one of which Menczer is reported to have announced his support for such left-leaning and overtly partisan organizations as Moveon.org and Organizing for Action, the successor to President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign.

The Truthy website also recently deleted from its “Projects Gallery” page a hashtag for “Top Conservatives on Twitter” (#tcot) that it had reportedly described as the “most popular meme we track.” The deleted page—reportedly up online through Oct. 14–included tweet statistics for the Drudge Report, Ann Coulter, and other high-profile conservative accounts. Visitors to the Truthy page were reportedly asked to “tell us what you think about” any Twitter account using the #tcot hashtag.”  So far Twitter has suspended at least three Truthy-targeted accounts supporting conservative causes and GOP House Speaker John Boehner.

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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