'Truthy' Grant Recipient Denies Database Will Track 'Hate Speech' Despite Support for Far-Left Causes

August 28, 2014 - 2:48 PM

So, the Indiana University professor who got the grant to create the "Truthy" database denies reports that it's going to track "hate speech." Though, a look into his background suggests he's a big fan of organizations that throw the term around liberally.

The Washington Free Beacon wrote a piece earlier this week on how the federal government gave $1 million to track "hate speech" and "misinformation":

The National Science Foundation is financing the creation of a web service that will monitor “suspicious memes” and what it considers “false and misleading ideas,” with a major focus on political activity online.

The “Truthy” database, created by researchers at Indiana University, is designed to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”

The university has received $919,917 so far for the project.

Turns out that the chief investigator for this project, Indiana University Professor of Informatics and Computer Science Filippo Menczer, is a supporter of numerous well-known liberal groups like MoveOn.org and Organizing For Action.

Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute researched Menczer's background in his piece for CNSNews:

“‘Truthy’ claims to be non-partisan. However, the project’s lead investigator Filippo Menczer proclaims his support for numerous progressive advocacy groups, including President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, Moveon.org, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, and True Majority. Menczer, a professor of informatics and computer science at Indiana University, links to each of the organizations on his personal page from his bio at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research.”

It’s an odd thing for a would-be fact-checker to tout his links to MoveOn.org and the Obama campaign, given their history of false claims, such as repeatedly misstating the facts of Supreme Court decisions (such as Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.) Odd, but sadly, not unprecedented: One supposedly non-partisan media fact-checker was assigned to evaluate claims by conservative candidates even though he claimed conservatism is a “cancer” synonymous with racism and “patriarchy,” and regularly referred to conservatives as “wingnuts” and “yahoos.” Indeed, fact-checking seems to attract more than its share of sanctimonious ideologues and partisan hacks.

Apparently, this isn't the first time this has happened under the Obama Administration with grants, either:

If this is an attempt to pathologize or chill dissent using taxpayer money, it certainly won’t be the first time it has happened under the Obama administration. In 2013, a liberal NIH-funded researcher in San Francisco falsely claimed the Tea Party was just an invention of the tobacco companies, in research funded by the taxpayers to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This July, the Obama Justice Department implied that criticism of Obama in a Nebraska town was hate speech or discriminatory harassment, when it classified an anti-Obama parade float in that mostly white town as “discrimination” that warranted federal intervention by the Community Relations Service, which “investigates disputes concerning discrimination.

However, it turns out that the researchers of the grant deny that they are using it to define hate speech.

Prof. Menczer, the principal investigator of the grant, said to CNSNews in an email that the grant does not define or track "hate speech," contrary to what other outlets have reported.

"The grant does not define hate speech. Nor is there any plan or proposal to formally define hate speech, or to build a database tracking hate speech, as has been alleged in recent posts," Menczer said. 

Menczer referenced the original statement on the website:

"The confusion about "hate speech" may have originated from the following sentence in the abstract of the award on the NSF site:

"... we will create a web service open to the public for monitoring trends, bursts, and suspicious memes. This service could mitigate the diffusion of false and misleading ideas, detect hate speech and subversive propaganda, and assist in the preservation of open debate."

This is a forward-looking statement from a proposal of yet-to-be performed research, years ago."

Menczer argues that the service is really just to analyze tweets that are already public to allow users to "visualize the pattern of diffusion of this meme: who started it, who promoted it, when, how and when it became popular."