Originally used as a marketing tool for businesses to track discussions about their brands and products and to track competitors, the DOD and other federal agencies are now paying for-profit public relations and communications firms to convert their technology into tools for the government to monitor speech on the internet.
The areas of the internet the companies monitor differ somewhat, and each business offers its own unique AI and ML proprietary technology, but the underlying approach and goals remain identical: The technology under development will “mine” large portions of the internet and identify conversations deemed indicative of an emerging harmful narrative, to allow the government to track those “threats” and adopt countermeasures before the messages go viral.
Omelas Inc., which received more than $1 million in taxpayer money, culls data from “the most influential newspapers, TV channels, government offices, militant groups, and more across a dozen social networks and messaging apps, thousands of websites, and thousands of RSS feeds.”
Alethea Group, which received a Phase I award of nearly $50,000 to develop a “machine learning tool for proactive disinformation/misinformation detection, assessment, and mitigation,” boasts it covers data sources including mainstream and “fringe” social media platforms, peer-to-peer messaging platforms, blogs and forums, state-affiliated media sites, “gray” propaganda sites, and the dark web.
Newsguard, awarded $750,000 by the DOD.