The US Army has announced a “combat” partnership (effective through 2025) with the publicly-funded University of Arkansas at Little Rock – and what they plan to “combat” together is none other than whatever is deemed to be online disinformation, but also, something defined as “cognitive threats.”
And by that, they don’t mean all manner of government and formally or otherwise government-associated entities falling over themselves trying to pass off various forms of speech suppression and censorship as fighting “disinformation.”
But there’s no denying that this, too, could fall under the definition of misinformation and cognitive threats offered here – namely, the goal is “to detect and combat bad actors online who are trying to manipulate how and what populations think.”
But if an actor is perceived as “good” – does manipulating how and what populations (note the plural) think, then magically become a good thing?
Sarcasm aside – the new initiative is backed with a grant worth $5 million. What the deal reveals is that more and more universities in the US are getting “hired” – whether by non-profits, or, again, the government – to work toward this goal via various dedicated research hubs.
In UA Little Rock’s case it’s called the Collaboration for Social Media and Online Behavioral Studies (COSMOS) Research Center. Beside the US Army’s own Research Office, another key player in putting this project together was Senator John Boozman.
“War is on the social media platforms,” is one of the comments cited in reports about this development, but curiously, it doesn’t come from a military representative but a budding academic with the COSMOS Research Center, graduate assistant Mano Har.
UA Little Rock’s specific task here will be to develop a tool that will detect bots active on social media, and this tool will be web-based – but also based on the school apparently already using “AI” to harvest troves of data from social networks.
It’s not exactly explained who’s responsible for the omnipresent algorithms’ biases being there in the first place – but now the new tool’s job will not be to get rid of them, rather, it is to “prevent those who would exploit the biases in algorithms to further narratives and agendas.”
(Obviously, if they are classified as “bad” actors. “Good” actors may or may not be given a pass trying to accomplish that same task.)
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