The US military may soon be deciding what is considered fake news on social media. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), an agency of the US Department of Defense, announced the development of a new program to combat “disinformation” on social media.
The Semantic Forensics program will “develop technologies to automatically detect, attribute, and characterize falsified, multi-modal media assets (e.g., text, audio, image, video) to defend against large-scale, automated disinformation attacks.”
DARPA is looking to develop software that can detect fakes amongst 500,000 stories, photos, videos and audio clips. The plan is to undergo four years of trials until the software is ready, so the program will not be used in the run-up to the 2020 election.
Only time will tell how accepting social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be of the DoD determining what is considered fake news.
The program is likely a reaction to the claim by Robert Mueller that the Russian company, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), led a social media campaign with the aim of “sowing discord” to help President Trump get elected. Although Mueller claimed the IRA was taking orders from the Kremlin, he provided no real evidence to link the IRA to the Russian government.
The actual influence of the IRA is much smaller than what Mueller alludes to in his 2018 indictment of the company. According to a Senate commissioned report by the firm New Knowledge, just “11 percent” of the IRA’s total content was election related. The IRA’s posts were “minimally about the candidates” with “roughly 6% of tweets, 18% of Instagram posts, and 7% of Facebook posts” having “mentioned Trump or Clinton by name.”