National Security

Hey, Internet Meme Trackers: The Pentagon Wants YOU!

pentagon Hey, Internet Meme Trackers: The Pentagon Wants YOU!We told you the Pentagon was getting serious about its war strategy for the internet, but we didn’t realize that meant getting social. The New York Times Bits blog reports that the Pentagon’s R&D arm is offering $42 million in funding to people that can help it use sites like Twitter and Facebook as both an early detection system and a weapon. In a document circulating among potential researchers, the military says that post-Arab Spring it’s interested in being able to find and track the spread of ideas.

In fact, they’re soliciting proposals to build what Bits calls, “at its most basic level, an Internet meme tracker” that would use tools like “linguistic cues, patterns of information flow, topic trend analysis, sentiment detection and opinion mining.” So, basically, the Pentagon is working the same program as Buzzfeed circa 2006?

There’s one big difference of note, however, the Pentagon’s memetracker will also be used for “countermessaging.” Bits says:

“A successful program would influence attitudes through methods including automatically generating content, formerly known as spam, and “inducing identities,” which might be whipping up fake combatants.”

Wonder what it says about our chances of winning the war on cyber-terrorism if the battle for foreign hearts and minds has come down to fake avatars and the Content Formerly Known As Spam.

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com