Secret Service Wants Sarcasm-Detecting Software For Social Media, Which Is The Best Idea Ever!

This week in the Best Ideas Ever, the Secret Service wants sarcasm-detecting software to help it distinguish between online threats and the casual Twitter joke. The elite protective police force, which is charged with ensuring the safety of President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, wants to deploy the software to help it more easily monitor social media without having to go through everyone who makes a threat by hand.

It goes without saying that this is an exceptional idea that is sure to split the snark from the dark. The Washington Post discovered the agency's hunt for sarcasm-detecting software when they posted a solicitation for the service online on Monday. The software would help automate the process by which the Secret Service's Office of Government and Public Affairs sorts out threats to the president.

Sarcasm-detecting is just one of the must-haves on the Secret Service's software wish list. They also want a program to do some of the following:

  • Sentiment analysis: If this sounds relatively creepy, that's because it is. Similar to the sarcasm analysis, sentiment analysis is basically a way for a machine to figure out subjective sentiments by mining your writing.
  • Data viz: See who hates the President most, and where they're Tweeting or sharing from. In chart form!
  • Access to historical Twitter data: There are currently sites that do this, but Twitter alone won't.
  • Influencer identification: This also sounds creepy, but it basically means figuring out what users have the most influence on others.
  • Compatibility with Internet Explorer 8, because the Secret Service still uses Internet Explorer 8.
  • Ability to detect sarcasm and false positives, which we would definitely love to leave up to the machines.
John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images

This all sounds like a really good way to monitor social media to help determine threats on the president, and we are really glad the Secret Service is pursuing it. (Yup, this is sarcasm.) Ed Donovan, the agency's spokesman, told the Post that the software would be used to monitor Twitter.

Our objective is to automate our social media monitoring process. Twitter is what we analyze. This is real time stream analysis. The ability to detect sarcasm and false positives is just one of 16 or 18 things we are looking at. We are looking for the ability to quantity our social media outreach. We aren’t looking solely to detect sarcasm.

Rock on, Secret Service Office of Government and Public Affairs. Interested companies should contact the Secret Service by June 9.