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US Secret Service Wants To Identify Snark 213

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the bound-for-success dept.
beschra (1424727) writes "From the article: 'The U.S. Secret Service is seeking software that can identify top influencers and trending sets of social media data, allowing the agency to monitor these streams in real-time — and sift through the sarcasm. "We are not currently aware of any automated technology that could do that (detect sarcasm). No one is considered a leader in that,'" Jamie Martin, a data acquisition engineer at Sioux Falls, SD based Bright Planet, told CBS News.'

Why not just force Twitter to change TOS to require sarcasm tag?"
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US Secret Service Wants To Identify Snark

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  • Yeah, right (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:46AM (#47165313)

    that's gonna work

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Sure it will:

      bool inetrnetsarcasmdetector (string post) {
      return true; }

    • by onepoint (301486)

      Just might work. Don't forget we have many people that have influenced history via sarcasm or joke's. Lenny Bruce arrests leading to George Carlins list of 7 things you cannot say on the air. Leading to court cases... Which lead up to a refined perspective of what might be accepted. I still have never understood the rules, but it seems that it's more understandable by those that deal with Media.

      So looking for someone that has a following, and that following can effectively make a change in the world (think

  • Just feed a bayesian analysis with postings from /. and use that to match against twitter. Should be able to get within 10%...

    • by flappinbooger (574405) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:03PM (#47165465) Homepage

      Just feed a bayesian analysis with postings from /. and use that to match against twitter. Should be able to get within 10%...

      Some conspiracy insight - the government's quantum based AI big brother master computer of the NSA is up and running in order to completely surveil the internet in real time.

      The problem is, it is nearly useless because it can't determine if someone is being sarcastic / snarky or not.

      • by poity (465672) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @01:25PM (#47166251)

        Conspiracy insight level 2: The government already has a sentient AI, but it's an Aspie like Data on Star Trek, so they're crowd-sourcing its emotional development. *dun-dun-DUN*

        • Conspiracy insight level 2: The government already has a sentient AI, but it's an Aspie like Data on Star Trek, so they're crowd-sourcing its emotional development. *dun-dun-DUN*

          If they're also putting patches of live skin on his arm, and seductively blowing on it, that would also explain who is running things behind the scenes.

        • by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @02:25PM (#47166689)

          so they're crowd-sourcing its emotional development. *dun-dun-DUN*

          ...and they're seeding it with all the data from Twitter, Reddit, Slashdot, and 4chan. So this is how the world ends

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        What they are doing is trying to hunt down and substantiate those quietly influencing the whole of the internet, not accidentally but purposefully via memes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org] hidden in sarcasm, those being political and social memes not kitten memes. So what they will be doing is backtracking ideas and changes to existing ideas from larger more spread elements of internet media and attempting to track them back to original sources based upon date of occurrence and looking for repeated patte

      • To be more precise, the quantum computer can determine if a comment is snarky or who made it, but not both. That's why they can't find out who's being snarky.

    • by plover (150551) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:51PM (#47165955) Homepage Journal

      Actually, what they could do would be to correlate English language postings with equivalent German language postings. As Germans are known world wide for their fun-loving sense of humor and sarcastic wits, the difference should yield accurate, non-snarky posts in English.

  • Easy (Score:4, Funny)

    by corychristison (951993) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:47AM (#47165321)

    Search the text for /sarcasm or #sarcasm.

    Done. Where's my paycheque?

  • but.. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:48AM (#47165331)

    They hunted till darkness came on, but they found
    Not a button, or feather, or mark,
    By which they could tell that they stood on the ground
    Where the Baker had met with the Snark.

    In the midst of the word he was trying to say,
    In the midst of his laughter and glee,
    He had softly and suddenly vanished away—
    For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.

    • They're looking for Fouquieria columnaris?

    • by lgw (121541)

      It's always amazed me how the word "snark" has proliferated, once you understand its intended meaning. Hint: the poem was the world's greatest-ever success at sneaking one past the censors.

  • by rujasu (3450319) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:48AM (#47165335)

    This will TOTALLY work. Detecting sarcasm will be DEFINITELY not be hard to do in software, seeing as how it's SO EASY for humans to do already.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    that's a real useful invention.

    Ha ha CBG, Frink gets the last laugh!

  • How are you going to teach a computer to detect sarcasm when most of the posters on Slashdot can't, assuming posters here are actually human? Which might be a stretch.
    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:20PM (#47165633)
      Nobody seems to be asking WHY.

      Why would the Secret Service, in particular, want to tell sarcasm apart from other speech? Think about who they are.

      They want to be able to distinguish sarcastic political speech, from sincere political speech. Of course both are protected speech.

      Now, they might have a benign purpose, but from the description in TFA it doesn't seem so. After all, the administration would look pretty foolish if they tried to harass or jail someone for being sarcastic.
      • by gstoddart (321705)

        After all, the administration would look pretty foolish if they tried to harass or jail someone for being sarcastic.

        It really depends on what you're veing sarcastic about from the perspective of the Secret Service.

        If you sarcastically say "'some guy' should be drowned in a vat of gazpacho and gummy bears while 16 clowns play the William Tell overture on kazoos", and their job is to protect 'some guy' (fill in your own blank here) ... one presumes the intent to tell the difference between random stupid thing

        • by plover (150551)

          My company sells gazpacho, gummy bears, and kazoos, and we just received a National Security Letter asking us to report if someone buys all three together.

          Just pointing out that the first rule of comedic threat club is that you DO NOT TALK ABOUT comedic threat club. At least not without a flaming-torch-juggling attorney present.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            My company sells gazpacho, gummy bears, and kazoos, and we just received a National Security Letter asking us to report if someone buys all three together.

            Thanks for the heads up, I'll make my own gazpacho. ;-)

      • by Comboman (895500) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:45PM (#47165903)

        Nobody seems to be asking WHY.

        Why would the Secret Service, in particular, want to tell sarcasm apart from other speech? Think about who they are.

        They want to be able to distinguish sarcastic political speech, from sincere political speech. Of course both are protected speech.

        Now, they might have a benign purpose, but from the description in TFA it doesn't seem so. After all, the administration would look pretty foolish if they tried to harass or jail someone for being sarcastic.

        The reason the Secret Service wants sarcasm detection is because of the bad PR they get every time they harass someone for being sarcastic. [usatoday.com] The problem is not sarcastic political speech vs sincere political speech; it's sarcastic threats vs sincere threats.

        • by Entropius (188861)

          Are there genuine sincere threats made on Twitter etc?

          Someone who's being snarky tweets "So Imma go shoot the president now." Someone who's serious doesn't tweet about shooting the president, and instead goes and shoots him.

          @leeharveyoswald didn't take out a classified ad asking for lawn chairs on the grassy knoll, after all.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            Are there genuine sincere threats made on Twitter etc?

            To a humorless agency with no ability to detect sarcasm ... they all get treated as sincere.

            Someone who's serious doesn't tweet about shooting the president, and instead goes and shoots him.

            It is not unprecedented for crazy people to telegraph their particular brand of crazy in advance. In the past, they used to write letters to the editor, manifestos, and trade agreements.

            With modern technology, more people can appear to be crazy in the same amount of

        • The problem is not sarcastic political speech vs sincere political speech; it's sarcastic threats vs sincere threats.

          Only if you really believe that's as far as it goes. The Obama administration has been known to -- shall we say -- stretch the bounds of propriety. That's a pretty major understatement.

      • by lgw (121541)

        Why would the Secret Service, in particular, want to tell sarcasm apart from other speech? Think about who they are.

        They want to be able to distinguish sarcastic political speech, from sincere political speech. Of course both are protected speech.

        Not all political speech is protected. A threat to harm the President of the US is specifically not protected speech. The Secret Service is particularly concerned with such threats, and is in fact charged with keeping tabs on everyone who has ever threatened the president.

        If you've ever publically made such a threat, there's a chance an agent will knock on your door and politely sit with you for a few hours while the president is in town. Think about the logistics of that. It would get quite out of hand

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          If you've ever publically made such a threat, there's a chance an agent will knock on your door and politely sit with you for a few hours while the president is in town.

          Awesome!! Someone to play Candy Land with.

          I'll make tea.

          • by lgw (121541)

            I've heard accounts of people doing just that, funnily enough. As the Secret Service currently lacks a sarcasm detector it's not just lonely weirdos they drop in on, and they're probably used to spending an afternoon with random families.

        • The Secret Service is particularly concerned with such threats, and is in fact charged with keeping tabs on everyone who has ever threatened the president.

          Something these companies [wikipedia.org] are all too aware of since the Bush presidency.

      • by freeze128 (544774)
        Well, then I guess it's a good thing that detection of sarcasm from print isn't reliable. So, no matter the reason, I don't think the Secret service is going to get their wish.

        On another note, if someone does come up with a reliable algorithm, then the whole world can benefit from it.
      • by maharvey (785540)

        Yes, this is exactly what I was wondering. WHY?

        If political speech is protected, why exactly are they tracking it? Why is it important to identify the ringleaders of popular opinion? Isn't it a waste of effort to track something you're not theoretically allowed to use?

        This raises all sorts of red flags.

        • because saying, "Mitch McConnell/Barack Obama/Nancy Pelosi/Cliven Bundy/Tom Hanks is a cancer on our country and must be stopped by any means necessary" from someone who has the ability and influence to convince other people to possibly shoot said persons IS illegal. It's incitement to violence.

          However, being able to mechanically determine, "Obama should be dragged out to the street and shot" and "I have an AK-47 and want to kill Obama" aren't equal would go a long way to helping an agency that has a pretty

  • Donovan’s example is a 2009 inauguration problem in which people were trapped in a Capitol tunnel and unable to reach the security gates. If the Secret Service had known through real-time social media, they could have remedied the situation more quickly.

    That's true. But if they had gotten a message by carrier pigeon that people were stuck in the tunnel they could also have remedied the situation. /sarcasm

  • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @11:55AM (#47165401)

    With all the sarcasm, don't you all realize you're creating the perfect dataset for them to train their algorithms on?

  • Also, obligatory "yeah, that'll work".

  • be a violation of the first amendment? I would imagine you would need to force an ironic tag as well, if you posted a sarcastic post without the tag, sarcastically.
  • by ichthus (72442)

    Why not just force Twitter to change TOS to require sarcasm tag?

    Or, why not just allow free speech? Why do we have to identify sarcasm? Maybe part of the expression of the message is its ambiguity.

    • by Spamalope (91802)

      Or, why not just allow free speech? Why do we have to identify sarcasm? Maybe part of the expression of the message is its ambiguity.

      Automated propaganda. Sheep herding shouldn't have to be work.

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Or, why not just allow free speech? Why do we have to identify sarcasm? Maybe part of the expression of the message is its ambiguity.

      Well, as much as I don't like to defend it ...

      Imagine that the Secret Service is, oh, I don't know, responsible for assessing threats to various people.

      Now, some random internet loon says "grrr, I'm so angry I want to air drop a million pounds of used condoms, Snickers wrappers and Depends undergarments onto Capitol Hill in protest" -- now, you have two possibilities:

      1) The

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        Important clarification for any sarcasm impaired law enforcement agencies:

        The above example was contrived to be the most outrageous (and therefore least plausible) example I could think of.

        You won't know I wasn't joking until you're awash in used condoms, Snickers wrappers, and Depends undergarments air lifted from my herd of flying elephants. The elephant poop is just a freebie since the Depends don't fit the elephants.

      • by ichthus (72442)

        So, then you either get actual attacks happening nobody took seriously. Or the men in dark sunglasses hauling you off in the night for questioning because they're 100% convinced that your threat to drop the condoms, Snickers wrappers, and Depends on Capitol Hill was real.

        Which scenario do you think is more likely? Furthermore, if anyone is a real threat, there will be much more intelligence (as in evidence of a threat) surrounding that individual than their tweets. Arresting people based solely on their

        • by MitchDev (2526834)

          That is where America has been headed...

        • Re:What? (Score:5, Informative)

          by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:49PM (#47165941) Homepage

          Which scenario do you think is more likely?

          Well ... gee ... let me think.

          This kid [rt.com]:

          "Someone had said something to the effect of 'Oh you're insane, you're crazy, you're messed up in the head,'" he called, "to which he replied 'Oh yeah, I'm real messed up in the head, I'm going to go shoot up a school full of kids and eat their still, beating hearts.'"

          According to Carter, he ended the quip with "LOL" and "JK" -- Internet shorthand for "laugh out loud" and "just kidding," respectively.

          It's a real thing, it has happened already. No evidence of a crime (or even the actual intent to commit one). But someone sees it and goes "eep", and then you get dragged off to jail.

          Arresting people based solely on their tweets or FB posts will very rapidly devolve into an outright ban of saying anything critical of government officials or policy -- AKA fascism.

          You seem to be under the impression this isn't happening already.

          It is.

          So, ask me again if I think what I said is a plausible scenario. Because I said it with the full knowledge it has already happened.

          • by ichthus (72442)
            Thank you for making my point for me. It has already happened, so it will again. It sounds like, even though you started your first reply with, "Well, as much as I don't like to defend it ...", you've talked yourself out of defending it. We are, therefore, in agreement. Now, let's go get a beer.
    • by sir-gold (949031)

      Nobody reads the TOS anyway

  • by istartedi (132515) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:04PM (#47165469) Journal

    If they required a sarcasm tag, I'd put it on everything just to be safe. Or would I?

  • by kruach aum (1934852) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:04PM (#47165473)

    Because people would instantly start using them sarcastically.

    [sarcasm]It's like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife[/sarcasm]

  • And to this day I wonder why Homer's inventor-friend didn't just add a couple Zener diodes to his design to handle signal overload conditions.

  • LOL ... (Score:5, Funny)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:08PM (#47165517) Homepage

    The automated detection of sarcasm and derision will be one of the fastest growing segments in the new economy.

    Already at least 3 startups have begun with this included in their mission statement, along with a stated goal of relieving venture capitalists from the burden of their investment money.

    It is of vital national importance that we identify who is merely being a dismissive arrogant douchebag, and who is at risk of inadvertently hurting someone else's feelings so we send them for re-education and thought alignment. It will also help to identify people who haven't yet fully swallowed the kool-aid and don't believe that the government is, in fact, here to help us, uphold the Constitution, and defend our rights.

    The US Secret Service is going to aggressively fund a second mandate to decode the mysteries of eye rolling, sneering, and derisive snorts.

    This should further embolden the usage of widespread warrantless collection of our personal information with the knowledge that law enforcement agencies will be able to accurately detect sarcasm and redirect scarce resources to fondling young children and old people in airport security lines.

    A spokesperson for the Treasury Department indicated that popular internet forum Slashdot, as well as Digg and 4Chan will be used as exemplars for this technology, as these have been identified as the single largest sources of snark on the interwebs since Al Gore invented it.

    It has been further reported that Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has said he welcomes this new initiative in the spirit of cooperation between the two countries, and that Kim Jon Un is hoping this will lead to a normalization of relations as it will allow the US to realize that North Korea was only kidding.

    • Re:LOL ... (Score:4, Funny)

      by Megane (129182) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:31PM (#47165761) Homepage

      A spokesperson for the Treasury Department indicated that popular internet forum Slashdot, as well as Digg and 4Chan will be used as exemplars for this technology, as these have been identified as the single largest sources of snark on the interwebs since Al Gore invented it.

      The Brits will now need to close up the Sarcasm Gap, but at least they have their own strategic snark reserves in the form of B3ta and The Register.

  • Since they are sarcasm impaired, will they understand the sarcastic output of the software anyhow?

    Yeah, sure, the 3 year old is a terrorist. He was secretly responsible for 911, and that bath photo is actually a steganographic blueprint for filling the Pentagon with tribbles.
  • They are talking about “Ability to detect sarcasm and false positives.” So now evil-doers will sprinkle their messages with omg lulz whatever i can has infidel pwnage.
  • by sootman (158191) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @12:23PM (#47165659) Homepage Journal

    Oh, that's a really useful invention.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=m... [youtube.com]

  • It should require explicit opt-out to turn it off each time. It would be easier for everyone that way.

  • Human brains, even the bigger one's here on /., often miss sarcasm. It's one of those subtle things that varies immensely with context, intelligence, context, etc. Then again, software can hardly do worse than the Secret Service at differentiating things like "real" from "make believe". For you new kids, please see http://www.sjgames.com/SS/ [sjgames.com]
  • I'll see your "my fellow Americans" and raise you a "my distinguished colleague..."

  • Being a government agency, with its well known tendency to mandate things, they might be inspired by this RFC [ietf.org] and decide to mandate everyone to set the snark bit in all their postings.
  • The Secret Service abbreviation is SS....

  • IF (current poster is not an idiot)
    AND
    (current post appears to support a stupid idea),
    THEN
    (post is SNARK).

    So what they really need is a stupidity detector - which might be a great invention except that it would be on all of the time.


  • NSA
    NSA
    NSA hates Poe's Law
    They have a fight
    Poe's Law wins
    Poe's Law.
  • I am certainly glad to see my tax dollars spent on worthy high tech and expensive efforts by the Secret Service and NSA. They should continue to spend with no concern for rationality. If you don't want to pay $100 billion a year to watch what people are doing you clearly have something to hide. The Tea Party should also continue hate big government, but also support unlimited spending on anti-terror efforts. #snark
  • "Why not just force Twitter to change TOS to require sarcasm tag?""

    Why not the government mind their own fucking business and stopping reading everybody else's shit?

  • by PaddyM (45763)

    Am I the only person who saw the title and wondered what shark had been roaming around recently and scarfing world leaders?

  • So does that mean if I make a statement like, "the NSA is perfectly competent to protect us from terrorism," that they will take it as a complement?
  • Most humans are none too good at detecting sarcasm in non-speech mediums. This pattern seems especially prevalent in employees (and administrators) of governmental agencies.

    Good luck. You're going to need it.

  • "We are not currently aware of any automated technology that could do that (detect sarcasm). No one is considered a leader in that..."

    Is he serious?

  • by PPH (736903) on Wednesday June 04, 2014 @07:09PM (#47168403)

    ... al Qaida moves toward tagging all correspondence with <evil></evil>.

"If truth is beauty, how come no one has their hair done in the library?" -- Lily Tomlin

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