In homage to late-night comedian Stephen Colbert, federal bureaucrats have named their new database "Truthy." However, unlike Colbert, there is nothing funny about this database. Researchers at Indiana University received nearly $1 million of your money to develop Truthy. According to Bonnie Kristian writing in The Week:
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: " could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate."
So the preservation of open debate depends on government surprising ideas that the government deems false and misleading (ideas like the American people would be better off without the Fed, the TSA, or the IRS?), or calls "subversive propaganda" (including sites devoted to the "subversive" ideas of Austrian economics and libertarian political philosophy?). I wonder if pointing out that government programs designed to "mitigate the diffusion of ideas" is a blatant violation of the First Amendment qualifies as "subversive propaganda."
Tags: civil liberties