Pentagon spent millions studying how to influence social media


The Pentagon’s analysis lab has funded dozens of research regarding using social media, the Guardian reported on Tuesday, elevating additional questions on what sort of information is of curiosity to governments across the globe.

Just days after a report printed by researchers at Facebook revealed that customers of the social media web site had been manipulated for science, Ben Quinn and James Ball on the Guardian wrote this week that DARPA — the Pentagon-run Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — has in a technique or one other funded a number of research lately that set out to discover that social networking web site, in addition to customers of Twitter, Pinterest, Kickstarter and others.

The journalists’ report stems from an inventory of publications that went reside on DARPA’s web site late final month regarding its Social Media in Strategic Communications, or SMISC, program.

“The general goal of the Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program is to develop a new science of social networks built on an emerging technology base,” a press release there reads. “Through the program, DARPA seeks to develop tools to support the efforts of human operators to counter misinformation or deception campaigns with truthful information.”

From there, guests to the location can view any of dozens of research from researchers on the likes of the University of Southern California, IBM or Georgia Tech Research Institute who’ve relied both absolutely or partially on Pentagon cash to conduct social media research.

According to the journalists, the initiatives funded by the federal company run the gamut of social media and embrace a lot of research positive to increase a couple of eyebrows. Formed in 1958, DARPA has been instrumental within the Pentagon’s growth of drones, robotics and even the web.

“While some elements of the multi-million dollar project might raise a wry smile – research has included analysis of the tweets of celebrities such as Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, in an attempt to understand influence on Twitter – others have resulted in the buildup of massive datasets of tweets and additional types social media posts,” the Guardian reported.

“The project list includes a study of how activists with the Occupy movement used Twitter as well as a range of research on tracking internet memes and some about understanding how influence behavior (liking, following, retweeting) happens on a range of popular social media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, Kickstarter, Digg and Reddit.”

Responding to the Guardian’s request for remark, DARPA defended the prolonged listing of social media research.

“Social media is changing the way people inform themselves, share ideas, and organize themselves into interest groups, including some that aim to harm the United States,” the Guardian quotes an company spokesperson as saying. “DARPA supports academic research that seeks to understand some of these dynamics through analyses of publicly available discussions conducted on social media platforms.”

Revelations regarding DARPA’s function in these research comes solely days after the researchers concerned within the controversial Facebook report publically apologized for manipulating the posts that appeared on customers’ information feeds to see how feelings can carry throughout the online.

“The goal of all of our research at Facebook is to learn how to provide a better service,” Facebook staffer and researcher Adam Kramer wrote.

On the Pentagon’s half, DARPA instructed the Guardian that the research it has funded are important to US protection pursuits.