(Robert Jonathan, Headline USA) The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reportedly paid a contractor nearly $800,000 to develop a way to assign so-called risk scores to social media accounts using automated technology.
The left-wing Brennan Center for Justice, which claims to be nonpartisan, found out more about what the government called Project Night Fury through a freedom of information request and then shared the information with the leftist Vice news outlet.
The University of Alabama at Birmingham purportedly was the contractor for Night Fury, a 2018 data-collection initiative meant to initially identify potential pro-terrorism online accounts on platforms such as, but not limited to, Facebook and Twitter.
The apparent end goal was to expand DHS’s existing capabilities.
As part of its dissection of the internal documents it obtained from the feds, the Brennan Center implied that the potential for abuse was present.
“Under the system contemplated by Project Night Fury, it appears that social media users could be labeled as threats in the absence of any evidence of criminal activity or planning, or based on a misinterpretation of innocuous behavior.”
The Brennan Center also noted that “The contract also fails to explain or define what a ‘risk score’ would measure — whether the risk of being a terrorist, being pro-terrorist, committing a violent act, or something else — nor does it explain how automated social media analysis would be an appropriate tool to make that determination.”
Under the plan, moreover, the term pro-terrorist account was undefined, “vesting both the university and DHS with significant discretion in identifying the attributes that would justify the designation.”
The civil liberties organization insinuated that privacy rights may have been afterthought in Project Night Fury, a concern that had prompted a DHS inspector general investigation.
“The privacy threshold analyses also do not describe any safeguards, but they do state that DHS would collect a wide range of sensitive information, including account names, emails, phone numbers, pictures, and posts from members of the public,” the Brennan Center detailed.
It turns out that the project was abandoned in late 2019 apparently with no culmination.
“The project illustrates our ongoing concerns about the use of social media by DHS and other federal agencies to make high-stakes judgments in the absence of any concrete evidence of efficacy or robust guardrails to protect against discrimination and overreach,” the Brennan Center concluded.
The agency went on to explain that it makes use of “various forms of technology” in its mission and that it has implemented appropriate safeguards when outsourcing functions to contractors.
The Project Night Fury concept has Chinese Communist Party undertones because it “bears a striking resemblance to the Chinese ‘social credit‘ scores assigned to citizens to measure their compliance with the regime,” Breitbart News provocatively claimed.