In DepthSocial Science

An Internet research project draws conservative ire

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Science  07 Nov 2014:
Vol. 346, Issue 6210, pp. 686-687
DOI: 10.1126/science.346.6210.686

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A 4-year-old academic study of how information spreads on Twitter has become the target of withering attacks from conservative bloggers and politicians. The Truthy project, by researchers at Indiana University (IU), Bloomington, is part of a growing body of work on how online memes—messages about ideas, issues, and events—can shape phenomena ranging from protest movements to outbreaks of disease. The National Science Foundation is a major funder of the project, which is one element in a broader initiative to understand complex, nonlinear feedback systems. But critics, who cite the project as an unwise use of taxpayer dollars, say Truthy is really an attempt by the U.S. government to monitor and restrict free speech. IU scientists say that is a gross distortion of what they have been doing.