Feds Accused of Backing Startup that Censored “Disinformation”

(IntegrityPress.org) – Tech developers working on artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms aimed at suppressing digital speech are actively supported by the government funded Directorate for Technology, Innovation, and Partnerships (TIP) under the National Science Foundation. Because of these initiatives, internet businesses will be cut off from both the financial system and ad revenue streams.

In the second phase of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program run by the NSF, Automated Controversy Detection, Inc. (AuCoDe), based in Massachusetts, secured just shy of a million dollars for its project called “A Controversy Detection Signal for Finance” back in 2020. AuCoDe aspires to enhance online communication’s productivity and reduce potential dangers by using state-of-the-art machine learning algorithms.

AuCoDe developed AI programs that identify various elements, including “opposing sentiment,” “bias issues”, and bot activity regarding alleged “disinformation”. Their objective was to develop technology to detect controversy “automatically”, offering a tool for financial institutions to “manage risk” amid growing public and political concerns regarding disinformation.

Their technologies include the “Squint” and “Squabble” controversy detection dashboard and model of detection. These tools allow users to gauge the controversy and toxicity levels of social media content along with an individual or company’s stance score. Also, AuCoDe released the free Chrome plugin “DETOXIFY,” a tool that allows users to hide and ban certain topics from their social media timelines. While there has always been the ability to silence certain phrases on websites like Twitter, the AI integration raises the bar significantly.

However, Squint and Squabble are currently unavailable for public use. A paper produced from this grant emphasizes the importance of detecting “misinformation” and deploying content moderation tools in social networks. The research aims to help the federal government curate digital speech algorithmically.

While The Global Disinformation Index, a formerly State Department-backed British organization, provided the basis for AuCoDe’s research, critics argue that the company potentially interfered with the right to free speech in the US.

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