Washington, D.C. – Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) today sent a letter to the Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) requesting detailed information and documents surrounding the agency’s decision to fund a grant that targeted political messages on social media.  The web service, named “Truthy,” was used to target political commentary associated with words such as “Tea Party,” “GOP” and “conservative.”

Chairman Smith: “The Committee and taxpayers deserve to know how NSF decided to award a large grant for a project that proposed to develop standards for online political speech and to apply those standards through development of a website that targeted conservative political comments. While some have argued that Truthy could be used to better understand things like disaster communication or to assist law enforcement, instead it appears Truthy focused on examples of ‘false and misleading ideas, hate speech, and subversive propaganda’ communicated by conservative groups.   

“Whether by amazing coincidence or on purpose, it appears that several social media accounts highlighted by Truthy were subsequently terminated by the owners of the social media platforms, effectively muzzling the political free speech of the targeted individuals and groups. In presenting and publishing the findings of their work, the Truthy research team proudly described how the web service targeted conservative social media messages.  Their presentations featured examples of what they found to be online political speech ‘abuses’ by supporters of these groups.” 

Chairman Smith’s letter requests all documents and information about the grant proposal and all records and documents surrounding the NSF’s decision to approve the $919,917.00 grant in July, 2011. 

The full letter can be found here.