Twitter Meme Tracker “Truthy” Targets Political Astroturfing, Is Delightful Data Pr0n

truthySay hello to Truthy, and data nerds say goodbye to the next few hours of your life. This meme tracker is a lovely timesuck, endlessly fascinating, a political junkie geek’s new drug, and has me eager to see new meme topics added ASAP.

There is a hell of a lot of bullshit on Twitter, and yet it’s also probably the top source for breaking (and unreported) news. Everyone with an agenda has been gaming Twitter in a billion different ways to do everything from sell shit (including themselves), and astroturf political opinion. The latter is what got researchers at Indiana University — “the Truthy Team” — interested in using Twitter’s API to not only track political memes, but to analyze them for truthiness. And emotion, and more: to deal with the inevitable gaming of their own system, they’ve even crated and automated form called the Profile of Mood States test to evaluate the “mood” of the data being sent. This test scans word use to look for indications of mood, including signs of Tension-Anxiety, Anger-Hostility, and Depression-Dejection. They make neat diffusion networks, like this one for @LadyGaga, and #DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) neat videos, too:

I found this item on Fast Comapny’s Stephen Colbert-Inspired Site “Truthy” Is a Swift Boat Torpedo for Twitter Users, but I prefer the Ars Technica article Twitter, algorithms, crowdsourcing used to spot truthiness. Snip:

(…) Now, a bunch of academics at Indiana are attempting to use a combination of crowd-sourcing, Twitter, and automated text and network analysis to bring instances of political truthiness out into the open.

The team has set up a site,, to show off and explain the system. Their focus is on Twitter, due to some recent election results; apparently, an organization called the American Future Fund set up a bunch of Twitter accounts to spread some truthy statements on election day, and managed to spam about 60,000 people before the company shut the accounts down. Other political controversies, like Governor Scwarzenegger’s ability to see Russia from Anchorage, have played out on the service.

Twitter also offers APIs for access to the content flowing through its system, and the Truthy site will be using this feed to obtain raw material for its analysis. As a first pass to winnow down the flood of tweets, the system will focus on what its creators define as memes. These include @-mentions, hash tags, and URLs that are either experiencing significant growth or account for a substantial proportion of the total traffic on the site. A filter will then classify these using a set of keywords to determine whether they’re likely to be political discussions.

The system will track basic features that are accessible through either the API or by mining the data. This will include things like the number of retweets, the rate of spreading, number of unique users involved, etc.

So far, however, there’s probably no system that can identify the actual accuracy of a tweet, so that’s where the crowd-sourcing comes in. (…read more,

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