National Science Foundation Bribed Universities to Develop AI Censorship

The National Science Foundation is reportedly paying universities on the taxpayer dime to set up AI tools that can be used to censor Americans on several social media platforms, per members of the House.

University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and MIT are among the universities referenced in the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government interim report.

It outlines the foundation’s “funding of AI-powered censorship and propaganda tools, and its repeated efforts to hide its actions and avoid political and media scrutiny.”

“NSF has been issuing multi-million-dollar grants to university and non-profit research teams” for the purpose of developing AI-powered technologies “that can be used by governments and Big Tech to shape public opinion by restricting certain viewpoints or promoting others,” the report highlighted. The report was first published in February. 

Funding for the projects started in 2021 and was allocated through the NSF’s Convergence Accelerator grant program. This program was first rolled out in 2019 to build interdisciplinary solutions to key economic and technological issues such as those connected to AI and quantum technology.

In 2021, NSF followed up by introducing “Track F: Trust & Authenticity in Communication Systems.”

The NSF’s 2021 Convergence Accelerator program solicitation spelled out that the goal of Track F projects was to “develop prototype(s) of novel research platforms forming integrated collection(s) of tools, techniques, and educational materials and programs to support increased citizen trust in public information of all sorts (health, climate, news, etc.), through more effectively preventing, mitigating, and adapting to critical threats in our communications systems.”

Specifically, the grant solicitation cited alleged threats posed by hackers and misinformation.

In September 2021,  the select subcommittee report called attention to how the NSF awarded “twelve Track F teams $750,000 each (a total of $9 million) to develop and refine their project ideas and build partnerships.” In 2022, the NSF selected 6 of the 12 teams to obtain an additional $5 million in funding for each of their own projects, per the report.

Projects from the University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, MIT, and Meedan, a non-profit organization that specializes in building software to fight misinformation, are pointed out by the select subcommittee.

In total, the NSF doled out $13 million to these projects, according to the report. 

“The University of Michigan intended to use the federal funding to develop its tool ‘WiseDex,’ which could use AI technology to assess the veracity of content on social media and assist large social media platforms with what content should be removed or otherwise censored,” it stated. 

The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Course Correct, was “intended to aid reporters, public health organizations, election administration officials, and others to address so-called misinformation on topics such as U.S. elections and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.”

MIT’s Search Lit was built as an intervention to assist with the education of groups of Americans the researchers viewed as the most vulnerable to misinformation. The groups targeted consisted of conservatives, minorities, rural Americans, older adults, and military families.

Per its website, Meedan used its funding to build “easy-to-use, mobile-friendly tools [that] will allow AAPI [Asian-American and Pacific Islander] community members to forward potentially harmful content to tiplines and discover relevant context explainers, fact-checks, media literacy materials, and other misinformation interventions.”

According to the select committee’s report, “Once empowered with taxpayer dollars, the pseudo-science researchers wield the resources and prestige bestowed upon them by the federal government against any entities that resist their censorship projects.”

“In some instances,” the report stated, “if a social media company fails to act fast enough to change a policy or remove what the researchers perceive to be misinformation on its platform, disinformation researchers will issue blogposts or formal papers to ‘generate a communications moment’ (i.e., negative press coverage) for the platform, seeking to coerce it into compliance with their demands.”

Tyrants in the US are becoming creative in their efforts to police discourse. They’re not using legislation but private sector actors and technology to clamp down on free speech. 

The US still retains strong 1st Amendment protections, which makes it difficult to pass direct anti-free speech legislation. So  the petty tyrants are getting creative here. This means the forces of the Right must continue staying on their toes and opposing all of these underhanded anti-free speech schemes.

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