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Snoop on Civil Libs

Over the top: The federal government, through the NSF, is funding the development of a tool  to “mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate.” Oh really? Should anyone find this reassuring? FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai condemns this initiative in the Washington Post. The project’s name is “Truthy,” a term credited to Steven Colbert, who otherwise seems to have nothing to do with it. Pai sums up the project nicely:

Hmm. A government-funded initiative is going to ‘assist in the preservation of open debate’ by monitoring social media for ‘subversive propaganda’ and combating what it considers to be ‘the diffusion of false and misleading ideas’? The concept seems to have come straight out of a George Orwell novel.

The NSF has already poured nearly $1 million into Truthy. To what end? Why is the federal government spending so much money on the study of your Twitter habits?

Some possible hints as to Truthy’s real motives emerge in a 2012 paper by the project’s leaders, in which they wrote ominously of a ‘highly-active, densely-interconnected constituency of right-leaning users using [Twitter] to further their political views.’

Does anyone of good faith on the Left actually think this is a good idea? And make no mistake: technology of this sort can be reversed. If anyone on the Left thinks it’s a good idea, are they willing to live with the consequences if things don’t go their way, say, if their avowed enemies take power? Have some more Pai:

To those who wish to shape the nation’s political dialogue, social media is dangerous. No longer can a cadre of elite gatekeepers pick and choose the ideas to which Americans will be exposed. But today’s democratization of political speech is a good thing. It brings into the arena countless Americans whose voices previously might have received inadequate or slanted exposure.

The federal government has no business spending your hard-earned money on a project to monitor political speech on Twitter. How should it instead have reacted when funding for Truthy was proposed? The proper response wouldn’t have required anywhere near 140 characters. It could have been, and should have been, #absolutelynot.