Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) users were studied by the US military under a funded research projects, analyzing almost similar metrics like the Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) recently did in its controversial emotion manipulation news feed study. Darpa, the US Department of Defense military research, has funded directly or indirectly, the project to analyze the flow of message and social connections on some of the largest social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Kickstarter.
The analysis included the Twitter accounts of some of the biggest personalities of the entertainment world such as Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber in order to identify the effect on Twitter-others have resulted in the buildup of massive datasets of tweets and additional types social media posts.
There were DoD funded studies in the past that not just analyzed the behavior of users and their communication styles, but also used to send the unaware participants some messages to track their reactions. Even before the Facebook project was engulfed into controversy, Darpa released an exhaustive list of projects funded under its Social Media in Strategic Communication program, including links to the actual papers and abstracts.
The research studies how activists with the Occupy movement used Twitter as well as researches for tracking the internet memes. The study, also, examines the behavior of liking, following and retweeting that occurs on the various popular social media platforms like Pinterest, twitter, Kickstarter, Digg and Reddit.
Research in interest of US security
In defense of its, Darpa says, “Social media is changing the way people inform themselves, share ideas, and organize themselves into interest groups, including some that aim to harm the United States.” A spokesperson stated that the organization is committed to the academic research that digs deeper to understand the behavior dynamics though analysis of publicly available discussions conducted on social media platforms.
The Guardian, citing sources, says that the data was taken from public social networks such and was gathered by the academics at institutions conducting the research, not by Darpa itself.
The Guardian took an initiative to know the reaction of people involved in the research, asking them to tell what probable reason would have caused US Army to fund research such as this one. Emilio Ferrara, involved in one of the research, said that these experiments do not affect the environment of the user, and one can gather the data freely from the Public feed.
The origin of Darpa goes back to 1958, and the organization’s success story includes Arpanet, the predecessor to today’s internet among other such innovations such as onion routing.