Pentagon bots in your comments? US Army wants AI tool for social networks

The US Army wants a new intelligence tool able to understand social media posts in languages including Russian, Arabic and French. It must also be able to answer on its own – just like those pesky “Kremlin bots” we hear about.

The description of what the US military wants from the future software is outlined in a request for the submission of white papers published on the Federal Business Opportunities website on Wednesday.

The self-improving AI tool is meant to work with text, voice, images and other content on social media in Arabic, French, Pashtu, Farsi, Urdu, Russian and Korean. It should understand colloquial phrasing, spelling variations, social media brevity codes and emojis, and also recognize various dialects.

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© Thaier Al-Sudani

The content will be automatically analyzed for sentiment – at minimum distinguish positive, neutral and negative emotions and preferably tell anger, pleasure, sadness and excitement. It should also have the “capability to suggest whether specific audiences could be influenced based on derived sentiment.”

Additionally, the tool must be able to serve as a translator to English and back into the original language, and automatically generate “at least three, and up to 10, unique statements derived from one original social media statement, while retaining the meaning and tone of the original.” The responses should be customized according to whatever slang and emojis the original contained. The software is also required to monitor and analyze the impact of the message on the target audience.

The US military’s involvement in social media communication in other nations is hardly surprising. The Pentagon was among the pioneers of state ‘astroturfing’ campaigns – online propaganda and social media manipulation through ‘sockpuppets’,  which are fake online personas purporting to be real people advocating whatever views the US military wants them to.

This particular request came from the United States Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), which is primarily tasked with collecting intelligence. The bot-like tool described seems more along the lines of psychological warfare, the domain of the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC). It is possible, however, that the spooks need to convince their sources to cooperate with a little help from AI-generated messages.

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