Truthy

I was at a meeting of local county conservatives last night and one of the members started talking about how much personal information people, unthinkingly, release on the ‘net. Personally, especially on Facebook, my profile is sparse. I post my name, that I’m married and the company name I used to work for. I thought long and hard before I added that last bit and did so only at the request of a few former work buddies.

But all too many people post everything—all their personal information, phone numbers, personal details, family photos by the ton, oblivious just how much they release. We hear of the NSA spying on US citizens and no one really believes the NSA’s claims of innocence.

PRISM is one such spy program that examines all email traffic looking for specific pieces of information.

The Prism program collects stored Internet communications based on demands made to Internet companies such as Google Inc. under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms.[6] —  Wiki.

http://static.tumblr.com/k6l9ga7/1pRlvb0xk/big-brother-1984-cropped.jpgThe conversation from last night was still fresh in my mind this morning when I found the article below in my morning news basket from Ed Morrissey. He compared “Truthy” to George Orwell‘s Big Brother watching everyone.

Media curiously silent on “Truthy”

posted at 8:41 am on August 27, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

It’s been a couple of days since the Washington Free Beacon’s Elizabeth Harrington first reported on the three-year-old  federal grant from the National Science Foundation for the “Truthy” database, and … not much else has happened. Blogs have picked it up, including our own Mary Katharine, and Reason’s Bobby Soave did a good job of highlighting its inherent contradictions. Twitchy has collated a number of tongue-in-cheek attempts to kick-start Truthy. Other than that, the national media appears to have gone radio silent on this latest project; according to a Bing news search this morning, no national outlet has yet picked up the story from WFB.

That’s interesting, because one might have guessed that they would take notice of a million-dollar effort to encroach on their fact-checking turf. In my column for The Week today, I wonder why the federal government is spending a million dollars to create a mechanism that sounds like it could come straight out of Orwell when we have a perfectly good private-sector market for free speech:

The better question is this: Who makes these subjective judgments? At least at first, the answer would be the researchers who are building Truthy under a federal grant from the NSF. It’s not to hard to imagine a scenario in which the federal government would eventually find a use for Truthy, and would make the subjective judgments on how best to monitor political speech on social media.

Reason’s Bobby Soave points out the basic contradiction in claiming, as the abstract does, to support “the preservation of open debate” while attempting to apply labels to speech such as “suspicious memes,” “hate speech,” and “subversive propaganda,” as well as determining which arguments constitute an “organic meme” versus an “inorganic” one. “Those seem like conflicting goals,” Soave writes, “even if pursued in a totally apolitical way.”

Or an “inorganic” way, for that matter. Truthy is the very definition of a top-down determination of the legitimacy of public speech. In a free society, citizens make those determinations for themselves. That is the organic approach to political speech, stemming from those who wish to engage in — or become spectators to — the contest of ideas, arguments, analyses, and proposals. Instead of allowing people to reach their own conclusions about those ideas and arguments, Truthy and the NSF instead appear to want to delegitimize the people who engage in those debates, which would in any other circumstance become the very kind of political smear that Truthy is supposedly designed to protect against.

The fact-checking industry, for all its faults, at least uses a free-market approach to criticism and debate that “Truthy” would pervert. Citizens of a free nation who value political speech shouldn’t pay a dime for Truthy, let alone a million dollars. Its abstract describes an apparatus for state control of political thought, as though its proposers read George Orwell’s 1984 as a how-to rather than a cautionary tale.

The Inquisitr takes a look at the principals involved in this project, and wonders just how non-partisan this project really is:

The project website also says that while many memes are created in a “perfectly organic manner,” others are allegedly driven by the “shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns.” Free speech advocates say, “so what” to the organic vs. organized meme creation. If a political advocacy group makes a Barack Obama golf meme, will they wind up in the government-funded database? According to the description and focus of the Truthy database project, the answer would be a resounding “yes.”

But speaking of “the shady machinery of high-profile … campaigns,” we have this:

The Truthy database project is billed as a non-partisan effort, but the “lead investigator” on the project is reportedly involved with a multitude of progressive or liberal groups, Filippo Menczer has reportedly uttered support for Moveon.org, Amnesty International, and President Barack Obama’s Organizing for Action, among other groups. Filippo Menczer is also a computer science and informatics professor at Indiana University. Links to the political and activists groups the Truthy database leader supports are posted on his bio page at the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research. Menczer’s page also says that he is on sabbatical at Yahoo! Labs for the 2014-15 academic year. The $1 million grant funded by the taxpayers runs during the same year.

But don’t worry … you’ll love Big Brother! They promise not to make that a “suspicious meme,” too.

For most of us, bits and pieces of our history and personal details are already in some database—a piece here, a piece there, including our tax and income data, even our medical history. It’s too late for us but we should be ever vigilant to not allow more of our personal data to come into some one’s hands. Privacy is achieved only through constant vigilence.

Friday Follies for June 21, 2013

I was going to make a FB post yesterday and was distracted. It’s a little thing, personal only to me and my sister. Yesterday was my father’s birthday. If he were still alive, he would be 111.

Happy birthday, Dad.

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An item was disclosed this week about the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that appears to violate the Constitution’s 4th Amendment.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. — 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.

It now appears that FISA modified part of the 4th Amendment.

Authorized by Section 702 of the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the program did away with the traditional individual warrant for each foreign suspect whose communications would be collected in the United States. In its place, the FISA court, which oversees domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes and whose proceedings are secret, would certify the government’s procedures to target people overseas and ensure citizens’ privacy. — The Washington Post.

Instead of individual warrants as required by the 4th Amendment, NSA was given a blanket certificate—a hunting and fishing license, so to speak, that allowed them to search anyone, everyone, whether hard evidence for probable cause existed, or not.

A comment posted on the Washington Post article above said, “I’m beginning to think the FISA court was set-up by the executive branch to rubber stamp all executive branch demands. The world’s most secret self-licking ice cream cone.” (Panhandle Willy, 6/20/2013 8:03 PM CDT)

 

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Today is the anniversary of the ratification of the US Constitution. It received its 9th approving vote 225 years ago today by New Hampshire.

On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, and it was subsequently agreed that government under the U.S. Constitution would begin on March 4, 1789. — www.history.com

Virginia and New York followed New Hampshire later in June but New Hampshire’s vote was sufficient to actually getting the new government running.

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The Tea Party was out in force, yesterday, with a rally in Washington DC to protest the actions of the IRS. A number of Congressmen attended as well, Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Ted Cruz (Texas), Reps. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) and Dave Camp (Mich.). The question now is whether any of our Missouri Senators and Representatives were there?

I’ve not seen any of the Missouri delegation post about their presence at the rally. I’ve asked Vicky Hartzler and Jason Smith that question but I’ve received no answers yet.

We must remember those absences when the primaries come next year and candidates want Tea Party endorsements.

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Unsatisfied with the bureaucrats in your state and federal government? That makes you a terrorist says a Tennessee bureaucrat.

Unsatisfied with the quality of your water and eager to let the government know about it?

You might be a terrorist, according to the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation.

“We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously,” deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources Sherwin Smith told a baffled and outraged audience in Maury County, Tennessee. “But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.”

Audience members saw the official’s answer as a means of deterring complaints from the public, according to a report in The Tennessean. — The Daily Caller.