- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Secret Service has put out the word that it wants new software to detect and analyze sarcasm in Twitter posts and has asked companies to step up to the plate and send in their proposals.

Privacy watchdogs are already howling, saying the software is a minefield for misinterpretation that could see hypervigilant agents twisting social media users’ words into something they never meant, Newsmax reported.

“It will likely sweep in some First Amendment protected expression,” said Ginger McCall, associate director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. “It is troubling, because it really stifles people’s ability to freely express themselves, and it has a tendency to quell dissent, to make people think twice before they express themselves online.”

On top of that, watchdogs say the software won’t work because computers aren’t equipped to comprehend and translate all the nuances involved in human conversations.

Secret Service officials posted an online request for software that can “detect sarcasm,” asking companies with interest in contracting to send in their proposals, The Washington Post reported.

“Our objective is to automate our social-media monitoring process,” said Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan, in Newsmax. “Twitter is what we analyze. This is real-time stream analysis. The ability to detect sarcasm and false positives is just one of 16 or 18 things we are looking at.”

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