back to article Tweety profs offer political smear-meme 'truthiness' ratings

Earnest academics in Indiana have set up an internet project designed to thwart evil right-wing internet smear campaigns against Democratic politicians, astroturfing, "and other social pollution". The website,, uses the Twitter API to identify internet memes and measure their "truthiness" - ie how bullshitty …


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  1. Martin 19
    Thumb Down

    What this means

    This just means that pressure groups/political parties will now race to be the first to get as many 'bullshit' flags raised on their opposition's arguments by their supporters as possible, and then claim to be "right" based on that.

    1. Rob Dobs

      Very true, but only to a degree

      You are right in small system.

      If they have any protection built in at all to prevent repeat votes from the same IP or MAC or OS (cookies etc) then it will greatly reduce how much people can game their system.

      Further if it gets really widely used (like 100's of millions of different input) then efforts like this would ideally largely get washed out by the truth.

      Idealistic, maybe a bit but it still still a clever idea, and a step in the right direction of giving some control back to the masses over the bullshit machine.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    The truth about the swift boats for U.K. readers

    I think the Reg sort of missed the point of the Kerry/Swiftboat kerfuffle.

    Kerry said that he distinctly remembered listening to Nixon's speech while in Cambodia during Christmas. This is significant because Nixon's speech said that the U.S. was not in Cambodia, which Kerry was saying was a lie. The problem was that Nixon wasn't inaugurated yet (Christmas is almost 30 days before the Presidential swearing in) and a lot of fellow vets disputed his claim of being in Cambodia. In fact, a lot of fellow swift-boat veterans disputed any number of Kerry's claims to heroism, with a fair level of believability.

    As a vet myself, I'm not sure which side was right in this particular case (and likely we'll never know). What we do know, however, is that Kerry did lie about his service in other instances, claiming to have personally witnessed atrocities in cases where it turned out that not only did he not witness the events, but the events never took place. I guess when you're a budding politician in an anti-Vietnam era, hopping on the My Lei bandwagon seems like a promising direction.

    I think blithely dismissing claims that Kerry lied--either about this specific event or his service experience--is a mistake. But as I said, there's no way to know for sure which of Kerry's swiftboat claims are true.

    1. Rob Dobs

      Anonymous and a coward?

      Willing to hear you out about Kerry, but as the Article states, Kerry is known by most to have a distinguished record of service, unlike what you claim.

      Can you at least point to some facts that support your claim that he lied or served in a less than honorable manner? (getting a minor fact wrong decades latter, is far different than the swiftboaters FALSE claims that Kerry lied about his combat service)

      What we also know to be true, or common knowledge, is that the swiftboaters who did provide this false "testimony" for the smear campaign, did NOT serve with Kerry.

      I am more mad at the rest of the veterans who would allow a jerk to lie about a fellow vetern putting his lif on the line and get away with it. Everyone of these liars should be on every veterns shitlist for being turncoats of a most cowardly type.....lying about a fellow combat soldiers record for some fast cash ....

      I don't think anyone blithely dismissed these claims, they were deeply investigated by nearly every source in the mainstream media, and almost every media source decided the whole swiftboat hoax was nothing but a smear campaign with no substance in fact. (fox and other jokes don't count - see their supreme court victory to be able to lie in their news back in 2004)

      The only horror is that this information was not widely publicly known until long after the election was over.

      1. Hud Dunlap

        Distinguished record of service?

        The fact that the rest of the Veterans did not criticize the Swiftboaters tells you all you need to know about who was telling the truth.

        What most people outside of the U.S. don't realize is that the Swiftboaters put their liberty on the line to bring this information out. Because of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act the Swiftboaters had to prove that they were not working with a candidate. Failure to do so would have landed them in jail for long prison terms. If Kerry had won they probably would have been prosecuted as a reminder to everyone that it is not safe to criticize a candidate.

        The Swiftboaters are doubly heros. They risked their lives in Vietnam and then risked their freedom in the U.S.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Americans not in Cambodia? LOL. Go back to school.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Good to see MoveOn and DailyKOS are, apparently truthy... I guess?

    I'm sure nobody ever spammed twitter with political propoganda before the Scott Brown incident amirite?


    "Republican challenger Scott Brown won the seat after AFF set up nine Twitter accounts in early morning hours prior to the election and then sent out 929 tweets in two hours before Twitter realized the information was spam. By then the messages had reached 60,000 people."

    That quote sure as hell makes it sound like there was a causal relationship between Scott Brown's win and the twitter bomb. For the record, he won by 110k votes (ref: If 55+k of those 60k that got the spam tweets switched their votes on the basis of a tweet then I think there are bigger problems than the truthiness of tweeting as roughly 5% of the Massachusetts voters are apparently retarded and do whatever the internet tells them to do. Furthermore, they didn't even describe what was wrong with the Scott Brown tweets from a truthiness standpoint. How do we know they weren't "Yay, vote for Scott!" tweets vs. some sort of swiftboat attempt.

    ....and finally on the boot note:

    "Bizarrely, however, much of the US public became convinced during the 2004 election that the timid, draft-dodging Bush would be a better Commander-in-Chief of the US military than Kerry, the decorated combat veteran."

    When was the Presidency ever about prior military service? Could you be any more of a condescending ass? In 1996 Clinton (*no* military service during Vietnam) defeated Bob Dole (WWII vet, medal recipient) - in 2008 Obama defeated McCain (Vietnam POW). If you really think Kerry's loss in 2004 is due entirely due to the Swiftboat accusations of what he did or didn't do in Vietnam, well, I can't say I can prove otherwise anymore than you can prove it's the case (although if there has ever been a real study on the issue I would be interested)... but blaming it all on that doesn't smell right to me and even many Democrats agreed there were plenty of other issues with his run.

  4. nickrw



  5. Truthy

    a couple clarification points

    Hi, just a couple clarification point about the Truthy website:

    1. We are a non-partisan research group, therefore we are interested in misinformation from all sides. The jargon terms "swiftboating" and "astroturfing" are not limited to either side of the political spectrum.

    2. Crowdsourcing is an important element of our approach (especially the public website) but by no means the only source of features that will contribute to our data mining efforts.


    The Team

  6. Escape Velocity

    Colbert would be Proud

    (Stephen Colbert is a comedian with a 'news like' show on Comedy Central in the U.S. He did a lot to introduce the "truthiness" concept in covering politics).

    This is just another bullshit engine they are describing. First of all, the big tip off is that this is a system to defend against "right wing" truthy campaigns. The only problem is that, at least here in the U.S., right AND left are completely full of shit.

    What we need is a system that detects broad statements widely repeated without citation or evidence. As an example, the system would kick to the top grandstanding like "Video Games are harming our children", and "Speed Cameras save lives", and of course the ubiquitous "The Internet is killing <x>".

    Even better would be a system that cross references the incessant stream of nonsense that comes out of our politicians brie holes with the legislation that is actually crafted and passed into law.

    What this system would tell us is that everything any politician says in public is unsubstantiated, and merely fodder for the "reindeer games" they play publicly while actually spending their time at work clearing the way for continued mercantilism. (No, we do not have free markets. If you have any doubt I refer you to the last 150 years of legislation in the U.S. as a whole)


  7. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Yeah, the truth, right

    It's interesting that these folks are all about 'truth' and exposing 'lies'...but that they have a blatant political spin and position from their inception. To me, this is a tool that seems to be aimed in only one direction - at exposing what they consider right-wing lies. So there aren't any left-wing lies? And the left-wing doesn't use the same methods (perhaps even more effectively) to generate dirt on their opponents?

      Black Helicopters

      Yeah, the truth, right

      Exactly, AC, that's the problem -- the right wing distorts more than the left; absolutely, it's unequal.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    You Can't Handle The Truth...

    So there's an unstated assumption at the bottom of this whole project that Republicans never tell the truth and that only Democrats are capable of telling the truth. Being a political independent of some 30 years standing, I'd like to point out that both groups have been caught lying, distorting the facts, stretching the truth and providing only partial answers to questions with significant information left out. Not just once or twice, but continually. For years. For decades. The very thought that one of them thinks it has somehow garnered a monopoly on the truth will amuse me mightily for the coming days. It's that ridiculous a claim.

    Long years of experience have taught me well that one type of person to scrupulously avoid is the person who's volunteered his or her services as a Teller of The Truth™. The more they reassure me in soothing tones that I can trust him/her, the more I start looking for the exits.

    The problem lies not with their desire to play politics, but rather that they seem to willing to tell the greatest of whoppers to their intended audience in order to get that audience to believe they're telling the truth. Convoluted that.

  9. Shonko Kid

    I thought it was accepted that...

    Everything any politician of any flavour said was utter bullshit, and to be ignored unless it can be turned back on them for comedic effect at some later time.

  10. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Big Brother

    The 21st century...

    Where people try to tell other people which of the cretinous soundbites they expose themselves to 24/7 to actually believe. Using soundbites.

    Then everyone gets asked to vote for Palin, Obama, McCain or some other cancerous dreck.

  11. TeeCee Gold badge

    Ah, neologisms.


    Just what is wrong with "veracity"?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    bandwagon ?

    While its interesting to hear of the murder of civilians so casually dismissed, if its a bandwagon it one thats been trundling on for 40 years.

    The point that Kerry was smeared and a relatively minor point of fact is seized upon suggests he was on the right track.

    I don't think the reg have missed the point anywhere near as much as you.

  13. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    What is truthy, said the jesting pilot?

    It appears likely that GW Bush blew off some number of Air National Guard drills toward the end of his service. However, in the strictest sense neither he nor (for example) Bill Clinton nor Dan Quayle dodged the draft. B&Q joined the National Guard, Clinton shuffled deferments in a perfectly legal manner until he was no longer eligible.

    "Scott Brown won the seat after AFF ... sent out 929 tweets". Post hoc indeed, but quite unlikely to be propter hoc. If Ms. Coakley's main problem had been Twitter bombing, she'd be senator today.

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