In recent months, an award-winning National Science Foundation-funded research project led by four faculty members at the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing has come under criticism for allegedly attempting to track political misinformation in a way that would somehow limit free speech. These claims could not be further from the truth.
The proposal for the grant that eventually became known as the “Truthy” project results from a solicitation from the National Science Foundation in 2010 seeking innovative proposals at the crossroads between social/economic science and computer science. Total funding for the program was $11.5 million, of which IU received just under $1 million.
In fact, the Truthy project is a basic computing research project designed to provide analytical insight into the ways in which information is spread across social media networks such as Twitter.
As IU researchers – and a number of independent experts – have consistently explained, the “Truthy” project does not have the ability to distinguish between types of political sentiment and is no way collecting a “database of misinformation” for the federal government as has been misrepresented by some critics.
This project is being led by a group of distinguished researchers with a long history of groundbreaking research in the field of complex networks and systems, and was funded by the NSF in 2011 through the NSF’s rigorous peer review process. In the past three years, the project has generated approximately 30 publicly available research publications in distinguished peer-reviewed scientific journals and conferences.
In no way are the researchers involved in this project attempting to track political speech on behalf of the federal government or any other entity, as has been stated by some in recent months. To do so would be in violation of the basic tenet of federally funded research, which is to provide necessary resources to promote basic research for the public good.
Indiana University stands behind this work and encourages anyone wishing to learn more about the Truthy project to visit The Truth about Truthy or to read the recent article in the Columbia Journalism Review.