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September 28, 2010

Web-based Tool Battles Dishonest Campaigning

Tiffany Trader

Indiana University has announced a new website — Truthy.indiana.edu — which can be used to identify smear tactics and Twitter-bombs in advance of the upcoming November elections. This new Twitter-based research tool combines data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing to uncover deceptive political tactics and misinformation.

The application works by sifting through thousands of tweets per hour in search of political keywords. Then a team from IU’s School of Informatics and Computing hones in on patterns of interest and inserts their findings — called memes, indicating a pattern passed by imitation — into Twitter’s application programming interface (API) to obtain more information.

Filippo Menczer, an associate professor of computer science and informatics, explains further:

“When we identify a trend we go back and examine how it was started, where the main injection points were, and any associated memes. When we drill down we’ll be able to see statistics and visualizations relating to tweets that mention the meme and basically reconstruct its history.”

The site will help pinpoint dishonest motives, for example an astroturfing campaign, where special interest agendas are disguised as grassroots movement, or Twitter bombs, which can artificially inflate Google results.

The term “truthy” was popularized by political pundit Stephen Colbert in 2005 to indicate the use of emotional appeal as fact.

Full story at Indiana University