Govt Spends $500,000 Fighting Online Trolls


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Thomas Phippen Thomas Phippen is acting editor in chief at the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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The U.S. government hopes to take on internet trolls by researching internet histories with taxpayer-funded research.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) is funding a research project at Northwestern University that could “make a significant impact by empowering the internet community to combat the online trolling problem.”

“Organized trolling has become a serious problem in today’s Internet; some argue that it can have a profound impact on the society,” the grant announcement says.

By using already extensive online tracking, the researchers at Northwestern University believe they can develop products that verify a user’s identity without infringing on privacy. The product would be able to identify the “unique fingerprint” of each user, and make it more difficult for trolls to “appear as if they were many distinct users.”

Online systems that rely on open membership are at risk of “multiple-identity” trolls, who claim to be many separate people in order “to influence public opinion on the internet by leaving biased, false, misleading, and inauthentic comments, and then artificially amplifying their rating,” the project states.

The research may help fight the troll armies of Russia and China, Aleksandar Kuzmanovic and Alan Mislove, both associate professors at Northwestern University, told the Washington Free Beacon.

“Likely the most well-known example is Russia’s ‘troll army,’ a government sponsored group of thousands of paid bloggers that work round the clock to flood the comments sections of western publications, ‘raging at the depravity and injustice of the west,’” Kuzmanovic and Mislove said. (RELATED: Clinton PAC And Russia’s Kremlin Share A Similar Messaging Tactic)

“Public opinion is of paramount importance in any society,” they said. “It is thus not a surprise that many governments, political parties, and various other groups deploy tactics to influence public opinion on the Internet, a practice commonly referred to as trolling.”

NSF awarded two grants to the project, one for $250,234 and the other for $249,337, totaling $499,571 and expect the research to be completed by October of 2019.

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