Rep. Kat Cammack (R-FL) blasted a university-affiliated censorship AI project funded by the National Science Foundation for the purpose of silencing free speech.
Cammack suggested during a Tuesday Congressional hearing that the project was really just an attempt by University of Michigan censors to filter content they didn’t like away from prying eyes and to shield social media companies from liability for censoring. Cammack was sitting on the House Select Weaponization Subcommittee for a hearing on the weaponization of AI to censor online content. She was specifically referring to the contents of a grant proposal to the NSF sent from the University of Michigan to develop a service for its “WiseDex” tool that could identify the veracity of a piece of content on social media and screen it for “misinformation.” George Orwell turns over in his grave.
— Christian (@MonteCristo1837) February 6, 2024
In the grant proposal, researchers highlighted the supposed usefulness of “WiseDex” because of its potential for “externalizing the difficult responsibility of censorship.” Instead of social media companies having to decide who is going to be censored, they can simply outsource the responsibility to third parties and “Get people off our backs for how we act on misinfo.” [Emphasis added.]
The NSF gave a taxpayer-funded $750,000 grant to the University of Michigan through its “Track F” program. The goals of the program were to create a “‘golden set service’ that determines what content is misinformation” and an API “that can tell a social media platform ‘for any content item’ how true that content is…”
“On their overview slide, the mission of their grant, as explained, was: ‘Our misinformation service helps policymakers at social media platforms get good PR for their actions on misinformation by having a clear benchmark for outcomes and eliminating the need to defend internal procedures,’” Cammack highlighted, before appearing to cringe.
She continued, “The slide deck also notes that they ‘do things that we know work without backlash’ and then, ‘We push responsibility for difficult judgments to someone outside of the company.’ It goes on to say, ‘We get people off our backs for how we act on misinformation,’”she said, continuing to cite from the grant. “And it goes on to say, ‘We eliminate the need to defend specific procedures.’” Cammack concluded:“Now this is an NSF-taxpayer funded project and they say, ‘We eliminate the need to defend specific procedures’ as though accountability is more of a suggestion, more of a yellow light.”
Cammack’s remarks followed the release of a damning Weaponization Subcommittee interim report that revealed that the NSF spent $39 million on various “Track F” programs. The programs were launched by NSF on March 18, 2021, which was “…ultimately asking applicants to propose solutions involving AI-powered tools to help Big Tech combat misinformation…”
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