DHS’ ‘Night Fury” Assigned “Risk” Scores to Social Media Accounts

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Project Night Fury gathered social media accounts and by looking at words or friends, assigned risk scores to so-called terrorist accounts so they could define terrorism “risks” while not defining the word ‘terrorism’ or observing constitutional rights.

Under the Freedom of information Act, The Brennan Center for Justice obtained documents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the DHS Science and Technology Directorate for information on Project Night Fury.

Little was known about it until a DHS Inspector General report was released on March 7, 2022. The inspector general’s investigation was investigating potential privacy violations. It began at the University of Alabama Birmingham in September 2018 and cost almost $790,000.

The purpose was to develop capabilities to “identify potential terrorism risks” on social media and other open-source platforms.

Motherboard reported that it aimed to utilize AI to detect and evaluate social media accounts for connections to terrorism, illegal drugs, and DISINFORMATION CAMPAIGNS. They assigned “risk scores” to social media accounts.

The DHS document stated, “The Contractor shall develop these attributes to create a methodology for developing a ranking, or ‘Risk Score,’ associated with the identified accounts.” They collected and kept social media accounts.

In other words, social credit scores as in Maoist China.

The Science and Technology Directorate did not consistently comply with guidelines and policies governing privacy and sensitive information requirements in its research and development projects,” The Brennan Center states.

The project was shut down in 2020.

The project sought “terrorist” projects without a specific definitiion of what “terrorist” is. These are the people who think parents with objections to gender ideology are terrorists. Yet open borders isn’t a problem.

They would build models to “identify key influencers of pro-terrorist thought.” Emphasis on the word “thought.” What does that look like?

Since DHS did not define “terrorist,” they had very broad discretion. The system allowed for terrorist labels on social media users without any prior terrorist threats or activity. They were acting like thought police.

Given DHS’s history of regarding “dissent” as domestic terrorism, Night Fury could easily be abused.

The University was also focusing on locations of these people without using geolocators. The tool was also to pick out “terrorist propaganda” throughout social media, looking for “foreign influence” by evaluating friends, followers, likes, and so on.

The project only made passing references to civil rights, and privacy. There were no safeguards to not infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights.

It was shut down but does DHS or other government agencies still have the tools and do they use them? Their willingness to use overly-broad definitions and ignore the Constitution is alarming.

UAB’s work was intended to “scale to other DHS domains and “build next generation capabilities.”

 

Spread it throughout other departments.

They planned to incorporate it in Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Experts had warned DHS about the inherent difficulties and biases involved in automated judgment for these matters, citing that characteristics like being “pro-terrorist” have no concrete definition.

We used red on the most important points.


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