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DARPA Funds Wide-Ranging Social Media Analysis, Says Report

The Guardian reports DARPA is interested in understanding social media and viral content to counter misinformation.
Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 09, 2014

The U.S. military has been pouring cash into analysis of social media, according to a new report.

According the The Guardian, DARPA directly and indirectly distributed millions of dollars of funding into social media studies on various networks. The agency sent $8.9m through IBM to various research groups. $9.6 million went to universities, including Georgia Tech and Indiana University.

Studies covered a wide range of social networks, from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest, Reddit and Kickstarter. Others tracked how memes work and how likes, retweets and sharing can spread the influence of big names like Justin Bieber. (Via chuckieart, JustinBeiberVEVO)

These projects are funded under DARPA’s Social Media in Strategic Communication initiative, which the agency uses “to develop tools to support the efforts of human operators to counter misinformation or deception campaigns with truthful information.”

So does the collective Internet, already on edge thanks to Facebook’s controversial emotions study, have good reason to watch these revelations closely? (Via The Next Web, Engadget)

After all, as Wired points out, DARPA’s understanding of social networks and how information moves within them could be the “ultimate viral propaganda tool.”

According to the Guardian’s report, there’s been no apparent user manipulation, ethics violations or surveillance activity during DARPA’s studies: not during testing in the wild, and not during homegrown experiments using closed social networks and volunteers.

DARPA says “Researchers will be required to certify that no personally identifiable information (PII) for U.S. participants was collected, stored or created in contravention to federal privacy laws, regulations or DoD policies.”