Yesterday it was reported that federal agencies were targeting internet users who create memes. The false report is from a satirical news network.
This inside story has been supplied by the National Report, one of the most popular of a dozen trendy websites that distribute “satirical” fake news. These types of sites have become increasingly prevalent over the last 18 months with viral stories sometimes provoking headlines among major news organizations.
As reported by the National Report, the National Science Foundation supposedly financed a $1 million dollar research project that is based out of Indiana University. Allegedly, this program (dubbed “Truthy”) eventually intends to contain the spread of certain internet memes. The article proceeds to claim that the FBI is working with Facebook to create an ongoing federal database of internet users that create memes, and this collection of data would be shared with additional agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.
Indiana University actually is running a research project called “Truthy” which intends to study the spread of memes on Twitter. In addition, the website devoted to Truthy states that it is also broadly interested in observing the circulation of “…political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution”, particularly in regards to information validity. In the FAQ section of the website, it is stated that the sole purpose of the automated experiment is to better comprehend how memes spread from person to person through Twitter. Addressing whether the site was conservative or liberal, the Truthy FAQ affirms the following:
“Truthy may happen to track some political memes as they co-occur with keywords related to themes on which we focus. However, we are a non-partisan research group and there is no attempt to represent or support any political views. The mix of thousands of memes that you can see on the site is imply a reflection of the active chatter in the Twittersphere.”
There is also a page devoted to debunking disinformation regarding Truthy which can be found here.
Oh, the Irony…
The spread of data in the Information Age is a truly fascinating wonder to consider. We are seemingly a culture/society so obsessed with little bits of data that many are willing to rapidly pass on sensational pieces of information without regard for validity and/or critical thought. Thus, the Information Age is plagued with viral memes which blur perceptions between fantasy and reality, and a university program simply studying the spread and accuracy of memes becomes an ominous government program in which meme creators are tracked by the FBI and Homeland Security.
Ironically, and perhaps this is where the bad satire comes in, National Report itselfis a website specializing in the creation of “satirical” misinformation with the probable ambition of perpetuating viral memes.
It is not true that federal agencies are targeting users who create internet memes. Yes, Indiana University does operate a program called Truthy which is intended to merely study the spread and truthfulness of memes on Twitter, yet the program is automated and is not politically biased (as all good science should be objective). Meme creator databases are not being collected for use by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. The article claiming this is an item of satirical fake news.