The government’s campaign to fight “misinformation” has expanded to adapt military-grade artificial intelligence once used to silence the Islamic State (ISIS) to quickly identify and censor American dissent on issues like vaccine safety and election integrity, according to grant documents and cyber experts.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded several million dollars in grants recently to universities and private firms to develop tools eerily similar to those developed in 2011 by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in its Social Media in Strategic Communication (SMISC) program.
DARPA said those tools were used “to help identify misinformation or deception campaigns and counter them with truthful information,” beginning with the Arab Spring uprisings in the the Middle East that spawned ISIS over a decade ago.
The initial idea was to track dissidents who were interested in toppling U.S.-friendly regimes or to follow any potentially radical threats by examining political posts on Big Tech platforms.
DARPA set four specific goals for the program:
- Detect, classify, measure and track the (a) formation, development and spread of ideas and concepts (memes), and (b) purposeful or deceptive messaging and misinformation.
- Recognize persuasion campaign structures and influence operations across social media sites and communities.
- Identify participants and intent, and measure effects of persuasion campaigns.
- Counter messaging of detected adversary influence operations.