DARPA Prepares To Use Social Networking As Weapons

Wednesday, August 3, 2011
By Paul Martin

Pentagon Seeks a Few Good Social Networkers

By DAVID STREITFELD
NYTimes.com

The Pentagon is developing plans to use social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter as both a resource and a weapon in future conflicts. Its research and development agency is offering $42 million in funding to anyone who can help.

Social media will change the nature of warfare just as surely as the telegraph, the radio and the telephone did, and the Pentagon is fearful of being caught short. Some of its goals were laid out in a document being circulated among potential researchers and is to be presented at a briefing on Tuesday in Arlington, Va., at the offices of the military contractor System Planning Corporation.

As social media play increasingly large roles in fomenting unrest in countries like Egypt and Iran, the military wants systems to be able to detect and track the spread of ideas both quickly and on a broad scale. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is soliciting innovative proposals to help build what would be, at its most basic level, an Internet meme tracker.

It would be useful to know, for instance, whether signs of widespread rebellion were authentic or whether they were being created by a fringe group with little real support. Among the tools the successful seeker of government funding might choose to employ: linguistic cues, patterns of information flow, topic trend analysis, sentiment detection and opinion mining.

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