Unbenowst Americans were assigned "credit scores" and ranked by how they interacted through social media and which accounts they are associated with.

Unbenowst Americans were assigned “credit scores” and ranked by how they interacted through social media and which accounts they are associated with.

Americans Ranked By Department of Homeland Security

According to documents obtained by Vice, the Department of Homeland Security attempted to assign ‘risk scores’ to all social media and internet users, a program they called ‘Night Fury.’

The Department of Homeland Security contracted the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2018 to design methods for assigning a “risk score” to potential pro-terrorists accounts on social media, as well as identifying information of interest regarding illegal opioid supply chain and disinformation efforts, according to internal DHS documents reviewed by Motherboard.

The project is dubbed “Night Fury,” according to a report from the DHS Inspector General.

“The Contractor shall develop these attributes to create a methodology for developing a ranking, or ‘Risk Score,’ associated with the identified accounts. The Contractor shall develop tools to automate the identification process, documenting performance measures and metrics related to automating the identification process,” one of the documents reads.

DHS said it stopped work on the project in 2019.

Automated Bots Saought Out ‘Pro-terrorist Thought”

Despite the known limits of artificial intelligence when this system was being formulated in 2018, the entire process would have been automated, according to the documents.

The university was assigned to build models to “identify key influencers of pro-terrorist thought” and create an automated system to uncover bots “programmatically generated to exert influence” to spread both “terrorist propaganda” and “foreign influence campaigns.” 

“The use of automated processes to analyze social media to determine the likelihood that someone is ‘pro-terrorist’ and to assign a ‘risk score’ to individuals and groups online has echoes of a discredited Trump administration proposal called the Extreme Vetting Initiative, which would have monitored social media and the rest of the open internet to automatically flag people for deportation or visa denial based on whether they would be a ‘positively contributing member of society’ or ‘contribute to the national interests,’ as well as whether they ‘intend to commit’ a crime or act of terrorism,’ Rachel Levinson-Waldman, Managing Director, Liberty & National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, told Motherboard in an email.

They would then compile a list of suspect accounts and turn them over to the DHS, along with their names, emails, phone numbers, pictures, and posts.

Who Are The Real Terrorists?

One of the Privacy Threshold Analyses says UAB’s work will initially be focused on “counter-terrorism, illegal opioid supply chain, transnational crime, and understanding/characterizing/identifying the spread of disinformation by foreign entities, including the study of bot detection,” but that the methods should “scale to other DHS domains.” 

Another document says the researchers will “build next generation capabilities.” This includes developing training data sets, algorithms, and methodologies, the document adds.

the project planned to develop methods that could identify a location without GPS metadata, such as looking for certain keywords, the document reads. The researcher also planned to track threats beyond mainstream social networks like Facebook and Twitter to other communities. 

The DHS planned for UAB to develop automated tools that would be able to determine if a social media account corresponds to a single human, or whether the account was “programmatically generated to exert influence”—a bot.

The “lesser” social media networks DHS wanted UAB to also study included Telegram, Google+, VK, Ask.fm, and Zello, one document reads.

Customs and Border Protection was recently found to be using a similar AI-powered tool called Babel X to snoop through the social media accounts of travelers at the US border.

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