Government Study To Censor Twitter Censors Website, Removes Tracking Of Conservative Hashtags

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Researchers behind a recently highlighted government study aimed at censoring Twitter have censored the study’s official website, removing the tracking of multiple conservative hashtags and trending topics after the announcement of a House investigation into the study earlier this week., the official website for the government’s “Truthy” study designed to “mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate” removed pages from the site this week listing the top users of various hashtags, estimating Twitter account partisanship, evaluating accounts’ positive and negative sentiments and asking people to assess whether accounts were “truthy” or “spam.” (RELATED: The Government Wants To Censor Social Media By Studying ‘Social Pollution’ On Twitter)

Among the topics removed were #TCOT, #GOP, @SARAHPALINUSA and The Drudge Report, many of which can be seen included in the webpage’s original form here, and listed as the first research gallery example here.

“It is telling that Truthy researchers are trying to cover up the nature of this project now that the public is scrutinizing their work,” Pai told The Daily Caller Thursday. “What are they trying to hide? This not-so-Truthy tactic further justifies the investigation launched by the House Science Committee.”

Pai announced on Thursday his support of a House Science, Space and Technology Committee probe into the Truthy study, which has received almost $1 million from the National Science Foundation so far to examine “social pollution,” “social epidemics” and “misinformation” on social media. (RELATED: FCC Commish Supports Probe Of Government Twitter Censorship)

“The federal government has no business getting involved in a project that aspires to be the arbiter of political statements made on social media or assesses individuals’ political leanings,” Pai said in a statement. “Among other things, Truthy also uses taxpayer dollars to evaluate the ‘partisanship’ of Americans’ Twitter accounts.”

House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith announced the probe earlier this week, echoing Pai’s sentiment that the government “has no business using taxpayer dollars to support limiting free speech on Twitter and other social media.” (RELATED: Congressman: ‘Government Has No Business’ Studying ‘Social Pollution’ On Twitter)

Pai first brought attention to the study in a recent Washington Post op-ed, where he described Truthy as ”straight out of a George Orwell novel.”

“Focusing in particular on political speech, Truthy keeps track of which Twitter accounts are using hashtags such as #teaparty and #dems,” Pai wrote. “It estimates users’ “partisanship.” It invites feedback on whether specific Twitter users, such as the Drudge Report, are “truthy” or “spamming.” And it evaluates whether accounts are expressing “positive” or “negative” sentiments toward other users or memes.”

The links to Truthy’s website included in Pai’s op-ed have been broken since the piece went up on the Post late last week.

Two of the study’s researchers, Filippo Menczer and Alessandro Flammini, co-authored a paper in 2012 examining social media use during the 2010 midterm election, which focused on “right-leaning Twitter users” who exhibited “greater levels of political activity, a more tightly interconnected social structure, and a communication network topology that facilitates the rapid and broad dissemination of political information.”

The Truthy project abstract also states the team plans to create a web service open to the public based on their findings “for monitoring trends, bursts, and suspicious memes.”

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