The federal government has awarded $5 million to a group of journalists called Hacks/Hackers to develop software that will encourage regular Americans to confront their friends over “harmful” posts, and “correct misinformation” by replying with text suggested by the software.
The group is also organizing Wikipedia censors to determine who is a “credible source” on vaccines, and block anyone else from being cited on the online encyclopedia. Job ads for the project do not require that applicants have any expertise in medicine.
That list is already taking shape on Wikipedia, with liberal outlets such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian, and The Atlantic all marked “reliable.” Conservative sites, including The Daily Wire, Daily Mail, Epoch Times, and The Federalist, are all classified as either “unreliable” or “conspiracy.”
The group led by Hacks/Hackers received $5 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop “the Analysis and Response Toolkit for Trust (ARTT), a suite of expert-informed resources that are intended to provide guidance and encouragement to individuals and communities as they address contentious or difficult topics online,” it said on October 24.
Users are encouraged to paste in their friends’ Twitter and Facebook posts, and the tool will tell them how “harmful” they are. Then it “suggests relevant responses through tailored response examples or templates” that the user should copy and paste as a reply, according to a video demonstrating the software.
“Every day there are motivated citizens, like librarians, health communicators, and amateur volunteers, who engage with the misinformation that is posted by their peers and make efforts to share reliable information to empower their communities,” the video said
ARTT says it uses psychology techniques to change people’s views–though when purveyors of “misinformation” do similar, the ARTT tool calls it “psychological manipulation tactics.”
Another ARTT video said that while social media platforms have made efforts to combat misinformation, influencing people’s views is more effective when it comes from friends than from social media companies directly.
“That’s why we want to focus on these peer connections when it comes to having these conversations online … Instead of coming to you from the platform, it’s actually coming to you from a friend,” the video said.
Project materials suggest the view that journalists should help enforce that others only echo “authoritative guidance” from governmental and quasi-governmental bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO), which served as an advisor on the project. The group also indicates that the vaccine issue is just a pilot project for using the software on other topics.
Curtis Houck of the Media Research Center, which monitors bias in media, said journalists like those behind the project “want to remove dissenting views from the internet and leave the rest in a state of reprogramming. For a profession that’s allegedly taught to oppose a herd mentality, they sure seem hell-bent on creating manufactured consensus.” The NSF, for its part, is acting like “a weapon to be wielded against the American people,” he told The Daily Wire.
Hacks/Hackers did not return a request for comment.
The ARTT funding is part of NSF’s Convergence Accelerator program, which has a focus on “Trust & Authenticity in Communication Systems.”
“Modern life depends on access to communications systems that offer trustworthy and accurate information. The Convergence Accelerator is funding tools and techniques to help the nation effectively prevent, mitigate and adapt to critical threats to communication systems,” NSF said, noting that it is “very hands-on with our funded researchers.”
In September 2021, the Convergence Accelerator awarded $21 million to 28 groups including Hacks/Hackers as well as to others like “Course Correct: Led by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, this team creates a dynamic misinformation identification dashboard, empowers journalists to identify misinformation networks, correct misinformation within the affected networks, and test the effectiveness of corrections.”
It also went to “Expert Voices Together: Led by George Washington University, this team is building a rapid-response system to assist journalists, scientists, and other experts whose work is being undermined by coordinated online harassment campaigns.”
In August 2022, 12 teams including Hacks/Hackers went on to a more heavily-funded Phase II, at a combined $60 million.
“Phase II of the ARTT project is led by Hacks/Hackers, a non-profit organization focused on journalism and technology, and the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science & Engineering at University of Washington. Throughout Phase I, a variety of organizations including Wikimedia DC, MuckRock Foundation, and Social Science Research Council collaborated and partnered in the project,” Hacks/Hackers said. “Additional advising in Phase I has come from members of WHO’s Vaccine Safety Net.”
Hacks/Hackers is governed by three people with connections to the left-wing Knight Foundation, including San Francisco-based journalist Burt Herman and former New York Times writer Jennifer Lee. Knight has also funded a similar group, OpenNews, which runs the DEI Coalition For Anti-Racist, Equitable, And Just Newsrooms. The Wikipedia project is an initiative of NewsQ, a Hacks/Hackers subsidiary that is also supported by the NSF.
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