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The Science of Truthiness 180

Posted by Soulskill
from the look-it-up-in-your-gut dept.
E IS mC(Square) writes "Researchers at Indiana University have just launched Truthy.indiana.edu, which they humbly declare 'a sophisticated new Twitter-based research tool that combines data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing to uncover deceptive tactics and misinformation leading up to the Nov. 2 elections.' According to their FAQ, they define 'truthy' thus: 'A truthy meme relies on deceptive tactics to represent misinformation as fact. The Truthy system uses Truthy to refer to activities such as political smear campaigns, astroturfing, and other social pollution."
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The Science of Truthiness

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  • summary: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FuckingNickName (1362625) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:24AM (#33775856) Journal

    If you are interested in the truth and have the required attention span to analyse detailed information, you won't be using Twitter.

    • Or shitty social networking websites, for that matter.

      • by jesset77 (759149)

        If you are interested in the truth and have the required attention span to analyse detailed information, you won't be using Twitter.

        Or shitty social networking websites, for that matter.

        I don't see how these critiques are relevant to adding an "I call bullshit" button to such services, and an aggregator which charts the currents of bullshit across these mediums. All forms of communication deserve the benefit of fact-checking. Whether you use them or not, they are popular, and I guarantee you're related to people who will believe what they read there. Leave them alone and they'll all rise up as one to elect Sarah Palin for president, and then the terrorists win.

    • That's a rather limited view. Twitter is a communication tool used by millions of people. It consumes and distributes everything from minor status updates to breaking news.

      The "everything new is a waste of time" attitude just makes you sound like a dottering old fool.

      • Re:summary: (Score:4, Insightful)

        by gilleain (1310105) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @10:09AM (#33776532)

        Twitter ... consumes and distributes everything from minor status updates to breaking news.

        Minor status updates are just that - minor. 24hr news networks can cover the breaking news.

        The "everything new is a waste of time" attitude just makes you sound like a dottering old fool.

        There are new things that are not a waste of time. Twitter is not among them

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by geekmux (1040042)

        That's a rather limited view. Twitter is a communication tool used by millions of people. It consumes and distributes everything from minor status updates to breaking news.

        The "everything new is a waste of time" attitude just makes you sound like a dottering old fool.

        And the fact that you would rely on any social networking portal for anything that would even remotely resemble "truth" doesn't make you look much different.

        There is "data" (a.k.a. noise, lies, bullshit, or the random "I just farted" post), and then there is "information", with the latter being the only useful part. Unfortunately, "information" on most social network portals represents itself as a tiny needle in a haystack the size of Texas, and thus I see little point in relying on a tool that is churning

      • Twitter is not new (just a much worse implementation).

        Signal to noise ratio about 0.

        That isn't new ether. Twitter takes it to a new low.

      • by neokushan (932374)

        How dare you defend Twitter! OHhh I'm so angry at you right now, I'm going to write about it on my Livejournal!

    • tl;dr

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Sodium Attack (194559)

      I find it amusing that you were able to express this sentiment in fewer than 140 characters.

  • Bears! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:28AM (#33775862)

    ...which they humbly declare 'a sophisticated new Twitter-based research tool that combines data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing to uncover deceptive tactics and misinformation...

    Deceptive tactics, such as using data mining, social network analysis and crowdsourcing?

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:36AM (#33775888) Homepage

    > ...leading up to the Nov. 2 elections

    What's to uncover? Just look at anything published by or in support of any politician.

  • 'cos that's gonna be one huge dataload.

  • What is bad about it? In analogy to pollution, leading to climate change (not a catastrophy, beware), it just leads to social change, and is not change (equated with progress) just the thing we want?

    CC.

  • by AHuxley (892839)
    They have learned from Fox news not to use day long talking points.
    Undercover, well funded efforts by governments, .coms, .orgs and faith based groups can flood any 'space'.
    A random set of users twisting and distorting, voting down and attacking.
    They will then just drift back down, waiting for the next mission.
    At best you expose 1 ip with a users who has x post over y months.
    They are quickly back with a new ip and 'old' users name even if detected.
    For best results shine light on their masters, infiltr
  • Social Pollution (Score:1, Redundant)

    by foobsr (693224)

    What is bad about it? It just leads to social change (like climate change), and change (aka progress) is the thing we all want!

    CC.

  • I don't believe them.

  • Truthiness is truthy. The cake is a lie :)

  • by egibster (1913920)
    Wow... I saw that when I went to UT. It was a cyborg heaven.
  • Really, this should be fun to watch, to see just how ridiculously one sided that they will be.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      CONSERVATARD SPOTTED.

  • by Zero__Kelvin (151819) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:53AM (#33775960) Homepage
    OK. "Truthy", and "Truthiness" are terms coined by Steven Colbert (or one of his writers), so why don't I see him getting any acknowledgment?
    • by the_humeister (922869) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @11:04AM (#33776922)

      Truthiness was not coined by him as it was already a valid, albeit obsolete, word. He just attached a new definition to it.

    • And you're ignoring Senator Lloyd Bentsen as well... they don't cite him for his coined term "astroturf". And Congress of the 1760s is getting ignored for their contribution of the coined term "Indiana" for the Land of the Indians. Gah! And they missed explaining Jeff Howe's contribution of "crowdsourcing", Richard Dawkins' term "meme", and... wait... YOU! You are ABSOLUTELY REVOLTING for not having explained that your own nom de web is thanks to the 13th General Conference on Weights and Measures and the essays of William Thomson, the first Baron Kelvin! Why aren't you giving the good folk of the 13th GCWM any acknowledgement? Hunh? HUNH? ...either that, or coined words simply enter the popular vocabulary and become used as a regular part of the language.
    • OK. "Truthy", and "Truthiness" are terms coined by Steven Colbert (or one of his writers), so why don't I see him getting any acknowledgment?

      OK. "Coin" and "Coined" are terms originally used by George Puttenham (in 1589), so why don't I see him getting any acknowledgement in your post? :)

      Seriously, are you suggesting that every word we write should include an acknowledgement of etymology and coinage?? I don't think that's gonna work, somehow ...

  • ...but this is just part of the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns

    • by cupantae (1304123)

      In my defense, the comment system broke completely and this appeared to be the first post when I posted it.

  • "Science"? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawnn (445279) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @07:56AM (#33775972)
    In the same sentence with "crowd sourced? Fail.
    Look, I detest astroturfing as much as the next person who values "truth", but anyone who cares to look, can see lies and half-truths for what they are. Detecting them, then, is not the problem. The problem is that so many people can't, or won't.
    • Re:"Science"? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MacGyver2210 (1053110) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @09:34AM (#33776346)

      When most of the science is sociology - a science of human interaction - I think crowd-sourcing is an acceptable way to do experimental data collection.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Look, I detest astroturfing as much as the next person who values "truth", but anyone who cares to look, can see lies and half-truths for what they are. Detecting them, then, is not the problem

      Let's not talk about the brigher people out there, the ones who always can see political doublespeak for what it is. Let's also not talk about the, uh, less bright people out there, the ones who are absolutely set in there ideas and eat up any reports that fit their viewpoints. Let's talk about Joe Average, the
      • by Shotgun (30919)

        How can we believe anything thing you say, when your sig is such a blatant lie.

        • How can we believe anything thing you say, when your sig is such a blatant lie.

          Well, my sig is somewhat related to the topic, after all.

          I've explained my sig to someone before. Most libertarians believe that government regulation restricts and impedes business, that the free market is being strangled by market and employer regulations. The inevitable response to that is, what will you do when an employer is treating its workers unfairly, or if a business is harming consumers? Then, libertarians sa
          • by Shotgun (30919)

            I find your post to be very patronizing of the average person. You portray everyone as helpless, stupid animals, and your answer to people not being willing to leave a crap job for a better one, is to allow a self-selecting crew of patronizing, self-absorbed PR people run our lives down to deciding how many handicap parking spaces must go into every business? Politicians must be PR hacks. They won't get elected otherwise.

            Grass-roots campaigns are difficult? It took 3 people to bring down the ACORN organ

  • So truth is a lie?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by dargaud (518470)

      So truth is a lie?

      Well, according to Fox News, a lie is the best alternative there is to the truth, and as such is worth the same level of 'respect'.

  • The bastion of pure balance. I'm sure the truthiness meter will see no bias creep.
    ~
  • BINGO! What do I win?
  • But ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass (838941) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @08:02AM (#33776008)
    But how can anyone trust their results if they're gathering their data and posting their results via the internet? Everybody knows you can't trust anything you find on the internet, right?
  • Ignoring the inherent dangers of crowdsourcing - why are we supposed to believe that this site is more reliable, and has less bias than your average twitter channel?

    I always find myself suspicious when people claim that they have some sort of uncontested claim on truth - politicians who start sentences with the words "believe me" spring to mind.
    • by jadavis (473492)

      Ignoring the inherent dangers of crowdsourcing - why are we supposed to believe that this site is more reliable, and has less bias than your average twitter channel?

      Exactly. Even if sites like politifact are well-intentioned, it often turns into more of a counter-argument (e.g. presenting additional, possibly relevant facts from another perspective) than fact-checking (that is, something is actually false in the original claim).

      Nothing really wrong with that, except that they present the site as though it i

  • Is there any progress in the field of internet technology that isn't about twitter/failbook social data mining crowdsource analysis network social social social cloudsourcing?

    If there is, why is this all that makes it to slashdot these days?

  • This is not the first post. Honest.
  • So why are they calling misinformation "truthy"? Is this some sort of Steven Colbert reference?
    • by hedwards (940851)
      It is, and I'm sure he's thrilled with the implication that his "truthiness" is just a cover for lies. I'm sure this project is going to be funded entirely by Canadian grizzly bears. In an effort to smear his good name.
  • The belief that none of us is smarter than all of us is not always true. For something like this I do not know if crowd-sourcing it is the way to go. Once 4chan gets a hold of it, that's it either way.

    First?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If we're going to have a group of social scientists run a negative points scoring system it would be great to start out with them saying which views of the world are false and which are true. "Obama is a communist" or "Obama is a muslim" is no different from saying "Republicans are racist" or "Bush was uneducated". Although based on my existing prejudices and the examples they use I suspect they disagree.

  • Wow, this story has been up for nearly an hour and there's still no comments? Slashdotters are clearly deeply concerned with highlighting the dishonesty of politicians. Maybe because it's so hard to spot...
    • by dangitman (862676)

      Wow, this story has been up for nearly an hour and there's still no comments?

      No, posting wasn't working properly for the first hour or so because of slashdot's shitty code. As you probably discovered if you refreshed the article page after you hit "submit" and found that your comment had not been posted yet.

  • Benchmarks? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by flyneye (84093)

    And what shall we use to benchmark this tool?
    We have been constantly lied to by both Democrats and Republicans for around a century or so since Wilson and Roosevelt took us into this age of swinging socialism and declared the lie of democracy.
    We are so gullible we have been talked out of rights and into atrocities without even the benefit of reflection of the wrongs done over long periods of time and lies so old no one recalls the truth.
    Suddenly someone finds the "magic 8 ball" algorithm to divine cheese fr

  • If i understand it correctly it sortof adds a layer of transparency to information on twitter, however either i'm dense or it's a bit tricky to understand what it really means.
  • is truthfulness.
  • ...they could get these pirates raided and shut down.

  • "Sophisticated" and "Twitter" in the same sentence.

    Yep.

  • Do Colbert's comments count as "deceptive tactics and misinformation"? Satire might be rather difficult to account for without broadly categorizing based on the cited source, but a well designed data-mining tool should be able to handle it.
  • "Sophistication" and "Twitter" in the same sentence.

    Yep.

  • I think I counted every buzzword currently in use in TF summary - got to read the TFA - I might win the buzzwrod bingo :-)
  • It deleted all the comments for this. Tory(at least for the server I am on)
  • by koterica (981373)
    Why are they calling dishonesty "truthiness"?
  • Do they declare which party THEY vote for ? Seems somehow relevant.

  • There will be no market for this product. Nobody wants to listen to reason, and it does not sell advertising.

    We want to hear that grandma will be put out of her home by the evil "OTHER" candidate.

    We want to hear that the highways are riddled with drunks and unsafe cars.

    We don't want to hear that grandma's income is actually quite safe, or that highway fatalities today kill fewer people than suicide.

    • > Nobody wants to listen to reason...

      Don't worry. There will be no actual reason involved. This will just be another source of "truthiness".

  • Crowdsourcing may be great for evaluating the popularity of a particular statement but it has nothing to do with the truthfulness of any statement, ideology or belief. I cannot think of a worst way to evaluate the accuracy of any piece of data.

  • by medcalf (68293) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @09:26AM (#33776320) Homepage
    I cannot see any indication that they have done anything to root out their own prejudgements and assumptions, or even to justify their inclusion. So like most politically-driven attempts at "science," this will doubtless just show the ideological conclusions reached by the creators of this tool (the tools behind the tool, if you will) before they even created it.
  • That's not what truthiness is though. Truthiness is the purposefuly following of what one wants to be true, ignoring logic/reason.

    • by bunratty (545641)
      Yes, that's what truthiness is. What people do is make up fake reasons to believe in what they want to be true, and these fake reasons are called misinformation.
  • Aren't there already sites out there that do this, much more effectively? Snopes.com and FactCheck.org are two that immediately come to mind.

    I'm really having a hard time figuring out how this uncovers anything. How would it account for some actual event that causes a shift in the nature of associated tweets? It also seems like it might be subject to the old, persistent problem that if people repeat something enough eventually it's considered fact. And what's the benchmark for spotting astroturfing? Is it g

  • ....shit tastes good does not mean it does.

    • It does, if you are a fly. Of course different kinds of flies like different kinds of shit, and so we have political parties.

  • Truthy, Indiana,
    Truthy, Indiana,
    Truthy, Indiana,
    That's the site I'm gonna surf.
    Truthy, Indiana,
    Truthy, Indiana,
    Truthy, Indiana,
    Tells me if it's astroturf.
    If you need to get political explication,
    Or to know whether it's data manipulation,
    Or perhaps it is an outright prevarication,
    There is just one page to fuel your outrage.
    Truthy, Indiana,
    Truthy, Indiana,
    Not O'Reillyana, Beckistan,or Hannitone,
    But Truthy, Indiana,
    Truthy, Indiana,
    Truthy, Indiana,
    The real spin-free zone.

    My apologies for Ha
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @01:12PM (#33777662)

    "'A truthy meme relies on deceptive tactics to represent misinformation as fact. The Truthy system uses Truthy to refer to activities such as political smear campaigns, astroturfing, and other social pollution.""

    So here of course they are talking about things like the claim Palin said "she could see Russia from her house" (said by Tina Fey playing her), or the notion that Tea Party protestors are racist when in fact they simply represent individuals wanting smaller government that spends less, or the notion that Obama is not a U.S. citizen despite having at least one parent who is so obviously he must be?

    I look forward to what they discover with "science", which must be bipartisanly bad and in that way bad news for Democrats, used to having news flow on their side... but of course the discoveries would never be themselves a kind of astroturfing, unveiling only what they thought would help the right people....

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      Probably more like Palin saying the health care reform with create death panels for old people, since that was a lie said for political purposes, not just entertainers.
      • When you put together panels that decide to withhold some medications due to cost...

        The term "death panel" is certainly sensationalistic, but not inaccurate.

        Wouldn't it be nice though if we could all have a rational discussion about what it meant to have a single government panel deciding why could get what medications without using sensationalistic terms or demonizing those who thought it a bad idea?

        • by Ksevio (865461)
          A clear example of the mis-information that it caused. The term "Death Panels" referred to the part of the bill that would provide end of life counseling to people - help them plan their will and funeral and prepare for the end of their life.
      • by Shotgun (30919)

        Yeah, because there was no way death panels [telegraph.co.uk] could ever happen in the real world. No way at all. [telegraph.co.uk]

        There is, and never was, a need to villify the messenger. Socialized medicine has its insurmountable problems. The big one is who gets to decide how much to spend keeping a random person alive. Palin was attacked for this, because you and the left dislike the unavoidable aspect of this ridiculous legislation and would rather not have a rational discussion about it.

  • For trying to even pretend it's remotely useful.

    I tried it out by clicking on a few "memes", and apparently they are just collecting twitter posts with the same tags in them, and trying to correlate them in some way.

    But in practice - wow, who knew that the most common tags would be 3-4 letters long, and mean something completely different to every person who uses them? That along with so many people indiscriminately using tags to try to get their posts noticed. Useless! (or truthy?)

  • The great thing about this research is that, no matter what you find, you can't be proven wrong.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Sunday October 03, 2010 @03:29PM (#33778514) Homepage

    It belongs in Idle.

Thufir's a Harkonnen now.

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