A consortium of major universities, using Homeland Security Department money, is developing software that would let the government monitor negative opinions of the United States or its leaders in newspapers and other publications overseas. Such a “sentiment analysis” is intended to identify potential threats to the nation, security officials said.
Software Being Developed to Monitor Opinions of U.S.
About The Author
Ex-programmer, ex-editor in chief at OSNews.com, now a visual artist/filmmaker.
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2006-10-04 5:12 pmJulikaefer
Also a good instrument to monitor critical opinions amongst their own people.
2006-10-04 5:19 pmJimbo
Also a good instrument to monitor critical opinions amongst their own people.
Or they could just conduct polls and read the editorial page of their local newspaper.
Are they going to start policing people’s thoughts?
“We are going to monitor you to see if you say or think anything we don’t like”.
I guess these people never picked up on WHY Winston hated Big Brother.
Do they honestly think monitoring negative opinions will help them with “potential threats”?! Jesus christ.
I love the vague “potential” though. You don’t even have to do anything, just have software think you have the “potential” to.
You have got to be kidding? I don’t like this at all. Who says it will be used to monitor forign opinions, I don’t like that idea either. More like opinions of US Citizens. So, they can be classified as terrorists. Now that we have laws that allow our govenment to detain terror suspects for as long as they want. Welcome to the new USA… So much for the land of the free.
2006-10-04 5:57 pmkadymae
Who says it will be used to monitor forign opinions, I don’t like that idea either. More like opinions of US Citizens. So, they can be classified as terrorists. Now that we have laws that allow our govenment to detain terror suspects for as long as they want.
Yeah, it’s fun to answer the yay-hoos that want to lecture me about how soldiers are fighting for my freedoms in Iraq*, by snarking back that I’d rather they were here, fighting for my right to Habeas Corpus, since it it exists only as the whim of a despot now.
Back on topic, when this software gets deployed, I’m curious about how it’s going to deal with being “spammed” with garbage keywords and misleading metadata, not to mention how it’s going to deal with the use of euphamism in discussion. Sure, it will track the word “grenade”, but if everybody’s talking about wanting lots of grenadine, will it dismiss source as a hotspot of bartending enthusiasts?
*My cousin Matt and my brother’s best friend, Aaron are both in Iraq right now. Both of them have duties that require them to get out and drive around on a regular basis. I worry about them.
2006-10-04 6:45 pmma_d
Never in history has an armed force successfully defended Habeas Corpus rights by being stationed within their own country…
I understand that you’re preference is for freedom over safety, and I laud you for it; but having the US armed forces bored at home is definitely not the solution .
2006-10-04 7:49 pmtwenex
That’s assuming that the Iraq invasion has made us safer. Only we keep hearing how it hasn’t.
2006-10-05 6:37 pmbeowuff
Who says they’d be bored? I say send them agains the white house!
At one time, the US was great. What’s so great about it now? We’re more like the Germans in WW2 now then ever…
Homeland Security… reminds me of “The Fatherland” speachs by Hitlar…
Invading other countries… Wounderfull stuff…
Who says we shouldn’t rebel agains the current regime? Remeber the Independince war in the 1700’s?
Edited 2006-10-05 18:39
Quick… everybody.. write about performing a terrorist act against the USA on every blog and every web page you have access to. Then convince your local newspapers to do the same for the next year… That will make this software spammed from the beggining…!!! 🙂
The fact that they think that “sentiment analysis” is going to help identify potential threats just shows how poorly they understand the problem they’re dealing with.
Hell, I can give you the results of the analysis right now: The Middle East hates us, because we’ve been intervening in their affairs. Latin Americans hate us, because we’ve been intervening in their affairs. Then, scattered throughout Asia, Africa, and Europe, there are lots of people who hate us, either because we interfere too much (Philippines), or we don’t interfere enough (Africa).
Okay, find the potential threats in that soup. There’s about two and a half billion people there to analyze, and most aren’t any more likely to attack us then, say, Mexicans.
It’s an exercise in mutual intellectual mastrubation between a bunch of egg-heads who don’t understand sociology and a bunch of beaurucrats that don’t understand technology. A computer, no matter how shiny, isn’t going to make up for not having smart political and social analysts looking at the situation.
Edited 2006-10-04 17:35
With American governmental attitudes, I think there is a lot of good reason for the growing sentiment of wanting to take down and destroy America, destroy its government. Although I am against doing it for religious reasons, like Islam, that is more of a cult, with all critical thought must be killed off, than being any sort of an honest religion. Which by the way is the majority of the reason I believe Islam and it’s religious writings needs to be destroyed because it’s own followers face consequences for arguing against or rejecting even 1 teaching. But for being so against America, and now the government is so concerned they need to track what others say, why are they not willing to consider that maybe they have really screwed up America, and that maybe people have good reason for wanting to destroy it’s government. Although I reject every person that tries to use physical force against any person or thing, I do think those that would want to kill America have some valid points, that America is too arrogantly evil to learn from, to change their ways, and to accept that any government that wants to ban American influence from it’s country has every right to do so. It’s physical force that no one on earth has permission to do. America has only done things the world over for power reasons, and never because they care about humanity. Just as I believe Islam nees to be wiped out from all of it’s followers choosing to leave it and not others trying to kill them, so too American government needs to be dealt with, or there will be unavoidable attacks out of retaliation for what it does the world over.
2006-10-04 6:09 pmaesiamun
This isn’t America that’s doing it, but a very vocal government that’s currently in control of the country. I would really hate to think that this country follows in beliefs what the current administration is spouting off…if it does then I may have to consider a change in venue… *sighs*
2006-10-04 9:33 pmUglyKidBill
uhm… well, you may be right to an extent, but please do not forget that this administration was “revalidated” when it was re-elected. I would almost say it was more supported in the second election than the first one. No offence nor flames intended.
2006-10-04 6:34 pmrayiner
Although I am against doing it for religious reasons, like Islam
No (organized) terrorist group wants to destroy the US “for Islam”. Osama bin Laden isn’t a religious figure, he’s a political figure. Like other political figures, he’s adept at using religion to lend justification to his political cause.
Using religion to further political causes is something that is seen systematically through history. Take some time to study the wars of religion in Europe sometime. A majority of the fighting that happened at the time was the result of underlying political conflicts. Understanding how those conflicts happened gives you a lot of insight into present day problems.
that is more of a cult, with all critical thought must be killed off, than being any sort of an honest religion.
Islam isn’t any more of a cult than the majority of other religions. The reason Islam seems more violent now is because Islam is the dominant religion in poor and poorly civilized parts of the world. Islam itself isn’t much different than it was at the height of the Islamic Empire, at a time when Islamic countries were among the most civilized in the world, a time during which the Christians of Europe were little more than barbarians mired in the Dark Ages.
own followers face consequences for arguing against or rejecting even 1 teaching.
Unlike, say, in France where tens of thousands of Huguenots were murdered for having a different interpretation of Christianity?
There is no authority in Islam that can mette out “consequences” for rejecting any teachings. Islam is a completely decentralized religion, one that is under the power of the state in nearly all Islamic countries. The government of Saudi Arabia doesn’t mette out brutal punishments because they’re in the Quran. It does so because its an effective tool for controlling their people.
Your basic mistake is believing that society reflects religion. It’s the other way around: religion reflects society. Christianity is a prime example. Christianity used to be (and technically, still is) a brutal religion. Indeed, in many respects, it’s even more backwards than Islam, particularly in how it gives women basically no rights apart from their husbands. Yet, by and large, the Christian world today is relatively peaceful. It’s not because Christianity has changed (the Bible today contains all the nasty stuff it did a thousand years ago), but because the people who profess faith in Christianity have become more civilized and more peaceful than they were back then. The same thing is true for Islam. If it seems violent, its only because it reflects the culture of some very poor and very uncivilized people.
2006-10-04 7:48 pmKantian
“Your basic mistake is believing that society reflects religion.”
Actually I would disagree. Check out Max Weber’s book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” In it he describes the rise of capitalism coming from a protestant ideology.
Honestly, I think there is an interdependency between religion and society. At some times there are societies that conform to religious beliefs. At other times (usually gradual) religion will cange as society.
Weber’s analysis of Protestant ideologies shows that protestantism was a push toward personal religious beliefes, i.e.: beliefs that are very individualistic. This, Weber claims, leads to Capitalism.
So I think there are definitely interactions between the two institutions.
But yes, Islam is definitely not the problem of the Middle East. The problem is more related to the imperialism of the western world. Culturally and Economically. As well as the governments that really have no populist element in them at all. They get almost zero social benefits. When times are rough, extremism will always shine through.
2006-10-04 10:59 pmrayiner
I’m familiar with the book, but in my opinion its argument is unconvincing. The Protestant reformation did not begin until the early 16th century, while the basics of capitalism were already beginning by the end of that century. Given that the initial development of Protestantism was more political than religious (a reaction to the temporal power of the Papacy), its difficult to believe that Protestant ideals changed culture quickly enough to lead to the development of capitalist ideas so quickly afterwards.
The timing suggests that Protestantism and capitalism are both the products of the same mode of thinking. As trade and economic development began to rise in Europe, the mercantile class (which has always been individualistic, throughout history) developed ideas of individual property rights, which underly capitalism. The fact that Protestantism reduces the importance of the Papacy made it attractive to the merchant class and the political leadership as a way to mitigate the political and economic power of the Papacy.
Lending further support for this interpretation is the fact that the quintessential Protestant societies, the Calvinists and their derivatives the Puritans, had a strongly socialistic streak. Moreover, Britain, the country that can be called the birthplace of capitalism if any country can, has never been particularly Protestant. Despite the split with Rome, the early Church of England retained much of the Catholic tradition. While it became more oriented towards Protestantism later, it never preached the sheer servitude towards God that characterized Luther’s and Calvin’s teachings.
Indeed, the Church of England precipitated precisely the opposite reaction. In breaking the political power of the Church (by subsuming it into the state), the monarchs of England started a trend of deemphasising religion that has continued to this day. Wheras Calvinists espoused that God was a part of every facet of life, and people like the Puritans lived by these beliefs, England evolved towards the modern notion that God is something relevant only during special occasions. It is interesting to note that the 18th and 19th centuries, which are periods of intense economic development in Britain around the concept of capitalism, are also coincident with a massive decline in church attendence.
2006-10-04 7:58 pmLengsel
Yes, many people want to destroy America for Islam that a not personally involved with a specific group. Many talk about waving the flag of Islam over Washington http://www.memritv.org/
I say it’s a cult from Muhammed’s own life, how evil he was, Muhammed being one fo the devil’s hetchmen, it is clear he only seeked his own glory. His “revelations” were nothing but seizures, when the Meccans were look for him to kill him because he was condemning their pegan gods, he went to the Jews for help and protectect him from death from the Meccans, even though the Jews rejected Muhammed when he said he was the Messiah that the Jews were waiting for. Then when he was asked to be in charge of Medina, he got is army, and went to kill off the Jews, even is dying wish was to have all Jews and Christians pushed out or killed off in the Arabian Penninsula.
When you talk about what Christians, what has been done for Christinaity, you have to specify between Christians and Catholics. Catholics have seperate doctrine, seperate teachings around salvation, seperate scripture they read from, that any devout Christ of any denomination would reject what Catholics teach and believe by. Catholics have always called themselves Christians, just like Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness, but have always been rejected throughout church history as having ones that have their own faith that is not scripturally supported be anyone who has researched the history of the verses.
But if you want to call Bin Laden a political figure, Islam is a religion of politics, is not an individual thing, but one that everyone has to follow like Judaism and Christianity(non-Catholic), is salvation is for the individual, and it does not affect them or God if people say bad things about God or them, it’s strictly an individual thing. I serious wonder why you don’t see Muslims with members of their own family that are against Islam or reject and follow something else, how many devout Muslims have family members they always spend time because they are so wonderful. No, muslims only stay with their own kind and don’t attempt good friendships with people who will not accept islam. Jews and Christians know they could be executed for what they believe in, why can’t muslims take all kind of criticism. Jews and Christians know they are not garaunteed a wonderful life, and not garaunteed safety, and not garaunteed wonderful times, they are only garaunteed they will never see hell after death. Why can’t muslims accept hardship, they need to kill anyone who condems them, because, islam is a religion of politics and is a cult! Just look at “taqiyya”, which is the teaching that it’s not allowed for muslims to lie to other muslims, but it is permitted for muslims lie to non-muslims if their lies will benefit islam in some way or if lying will give them power over their enemy, then yes it is no sin to lie.
If someone gave me $2.4million to spend scanning articles from 2001 and 2002, I’d probably use it to research “technologies” that might be useful, and report that the system is unworkable. Then I’d use the technologies – archiving software, concordance compilers or whatever – in a university attached start-up.
Then I’d apply for another grant and give it another go.
This is no different than the $450,000.00 given to the Air Force Research Laboratory to study blogs:
Instead of fielding intelligence officers and get the actual “man-on-the-street” perspective, some believe they can automate the process and eliminate (or reduce) the need for intelligence officers.
I see this as another means to collect tons of information (as if the intelligence agencies don’t collect enough already) that will not be analyzed, or analyzed correctly despite the “automation”. Instead of spending money on field agents and analysts, they piss it away on this nonsense.
Do they really want to water down opinion statements by politicians even further? I mean, stupid statements like “axis of evil” will now be evaluatable almost overnight, and then you could predict terms based on past similar terms…
Will they someday run speeches against this to forecast how offensive they could be? Do we really want candidates to get up and say even less than they already do to avoid offending us?
Man.. this reads like the book 1984 was just a few years off. This is bullshit. A country that sacrifices freedom for security has neither.
I wonder though if another layer of language will have to be invented to combat/confuse the machine that analyzes your words. So much for the cyberpunk future for all of us.
Ok boys and girls, please keep the religion-bashing for your personal weblogs. This is about software monitoring what non-US citizens think, not about what religion is best.
Got it? I will not hesitate to remove this story altogether if you can’t play nice.
2006-10-04 9:18 pmsmitty
The last time I heard, this was going to monitor US newspapers as well as foreign ones. Has that changed?
Best quote from the article:
It is just creepy and Orwellian
Edited 2006-10-04 21:20
2006-10-04 11:39 pmEugenia Loli
I agree with Thom, no religion discussion here please. It is off topic.
So let me get this straight. People write editorials about how they hate what the US government is doing to them, for everyone to read. Then the US government develops a system for reading all this stuff and taking these opinions into account in determining policy. And this is bad how? It’s not exactly thought control. These people are exercising the right to free press.
The problem is not in the fact that it identifies potential threats but in how the governemnt responds. Do they listen to valid complaints (such as global warming, an example cited in the article) or do they try and supress discontent. If the latter is the case, then they’re probably already doing it and that is the real complaint, not this bit of software that just helps them.
Rather like the nuclear bomb. The US bombed the c**p out of Tokyo before they ever got their hands on a nuke. It just helped them do what they were already doing. That doesn’t make it a good thing of course.
Is anyone else here aware of the consequences these “small acts” are going to have on our future?
While I don’t mean to get “too Christian” (i.e religious debate) about this issue, this is but one more step in the direction that will take our freedoms (Christian or not) away. Who is truly “the real enemy”, when ANYthing we say from ANY perspective (religious or not) could be taken as threatening?
A day is coming when we will have no say other than what we are told (or allowed) to say. We will have no belief other than what we are told we can believe. We will have no God but the god of the one(s) in charge. Say or think or believe any different and you will likely be considered either a local threat, traitor, or (potential) terrorist.
The noose is tightening at an alarming rate… we really need to know what to do before it’s too late and we CAN’T escape.
I see this “technological software development” from a much more dangerous perspective than others may. Our freedoms are being wiped out, one at a time, and we along with them. When do we draw the line? More importantly… WHERE do we draw the line?
“A danger foreseen is half avoided.”
Anyone have ideas on what to do? Have gun, will travel.
Rallies don’t work.
Counter-propaganda doesn’t work.
Checks and balances don’t work.
Opposition party is impotent, goofy, and milquetoast, and are the kind of party that could injure themselves fatally in a padded room.
Electoral system / Democracy, completely broken. Those who raise concerns about possibly corrupted/broken mechanisms of election are dismissed as “conspiracy nuts” or “sore losers.”
Language is controlled and distorted. News is distorted. Government feels like it’s less and less necessary to even attempt to conceal its deception, because there is a certain group of people here who will applaud our government, no matter what it does, or to whom. People want to hear only what they want to hear. Little the government does directly affects its supporters – not yet, anyway. Let’s hope the old cliche about “what goes around comes around” is true.
I read a story about Pink Floyd: The Wall (the movie), about a deleted scene where an audience is literally blown to smithereens, applauding as it happens. This comes to mind, now.
The amount of debt we have, is astounding. Several economists – from all over the spectrum – are wondering about a possible serious economic recession (some have even used the “D” word). Don’t kid yourself – if the US collapses, it’s probably going to hurt everyone in some way, because the economy is now global. Invested assets, pensions, etc…all at risk. The US is hardly a small consumer market either, so there’s that, too.
And now this software, just another in a long line of things I was taught in (public – meaning socialized in the US) school that I thought could *never* happen here.
I’m stuck. I want to do something about all of this other than just be disturbed by it.
If anyone has any *serious* ideas or strategies how to deal with this, I’d love to hear it.
Maybe in 2008 this all ends.
I doubt it though.
The Flat Earth Society is now in charge.
There’s a great deal of difference between monitoring ‘opinions’ in newspapers and the web and monitoring threats in newspapers and the web. You can have all the negative opinions you want about what the American government is doing in (or to) the world today, but that doesn’t constitute a THREAT to the American government.
Unless dissenting opinions are now considered a threat…
Good for finding excuses to invade foreign countries in search of oil and such.