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US Secret Service to buy Twitter Sarcasm detector

06 June 2014

The US Secret Service wants to figure out the veracity of threats posted via  Twitter.

The federal agency, charged both with protecting past and present presidents and their families, and also investigating financial fraud, put out a request for a ''Computer Based Annual Social Media Analytics Subscription'' in a work order that was posted online earlier this week.

The request said the Secret Service was looking for software capable of analysing large sets of social media data in order to gain insight into issues that were occurring in real-time and which might require immediate action.

The ability to ''detect sarcasm and false positives'' was among the requirements for the winning bidder's tool. In theory, a capability of the kind could allow the user to spend less time sorting through joke threats and more time focusing on legitimate ones.

US presidents might receive 3,000 threats per day, according to some estimates. Several assassination attempts as also plots to kill president Barack Obama had been uncovered after his taking over the presidential office in 2008.

A spokesman for the Secret Service told The Washington Post the software would allow the agency to create its own system to monitor Twitter rather than relying on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Twitter analytics, as was currently the case.

Spokesman Ed Donovan told the newspaper that the secret service's objective was to automate its social media monitoring process. He said the service analysed Twitter and the ability to detect sarcasm and false positives was just one of 16 or 18 things the service was  looking at.

In a tender notice posted online, the agency offered a contract for analytics software with the "ability to detect sarcasm and false positives", according to Sky News.

It would also collect everything from the emotions of internet users to old Twitter messages.

According to Donovan the service's objective was to automate its social media monitoring process.

He added the service was looking for the ability to quantify its social media outreach. He said the service was not looking to solely detect sarcasm.

The software deal would cover a five-year period, and the agency would accept proposals until 9 June.

However, that tender notice called for compability of the tool with Internet Explorer 8 released in 2006, a sign of the agency's software not being particularly up to date.

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