Government agencies are not famed far and wide for their sense of humor, and for excellent reason. Most funny people in government generally work for contractors. This is a problem for the Secret Service, so they’re solving the problem by throwing a computer at it.
Here’s the fundamental problem. To a human, a tweet that reads “DERP POLITICS OBAMA MUST DIE LOL” makes you roll your eyes at the fourteen-year-old who farted it out at lunch. To a computer, only three words are seemingly relevant. So, if the Secret Service rolls up and bomb-squads said Twitter troll, it’s really funny for us but a massive waste of time and taxpayer dollars for them.
Hence, according to NextGov, the Secret Service would like to instead waste time and taxpayer dollars on a sarcasm detector. But that’s just the funniest item on a rather… troubling shopping list:
Its capabilities will include “sentiment analysis,” “influencer identification,” “access to historical Twitter data,” “ability to detect sarcasm,” and “heat maps” or graphics showing user trends by color intensity, agency officials said. The automated technology will “synthesize large sets of social media data” and “identify statistical pattern analysis” among other objectives, officials said. The tool also will have the “functionality to send notifications to users,” they said.
So, it can figure out you’re sarcastic… and then spam you? Here, let us help: That’s just great, guys. Superb use of taxpayer money. Keep it up!
To be fair, spotting sarcasm is not impossible. Back in 2010, there was a program announced that spotted sarcasm 77% of the time, a much better track record than most Facebook users. And we’re assuming that this is more about the vast data processing problem than anything else.
Still, what kind of stiffs do they hire that they need a computer to spot when somebody’s being sarcastic? Wouldn’t this be better solved by having a mandatory course on Condescending Wonka?