The Secret Service is looking to buy sophisticated social media monitoring software that can detect when people are being sarcastic, among other things. The agency is specifically interested in Twitter, according to a spokesperson, who told The Washington Post that tweets would help the agency make better decisions in security emergencies.
The software must provide real-time analysis, keyword searches, sentiment analysis, influencer identification, and "ability to detect sarcasm and false positives," among other requirements. The sarcasm detector would likely allow the Secret Service to better judge the seriousness of a threat made on Twitter.
The agency also seems interested in its own popularity. Its feature requests include the "ability to quantify the agency's social media outreach/footprint." It must also be compatible with Internet Explorer 8, the agency notes.
The proposal, discovered by the blog Nextgov, has inspired a deluge of sarcastic responses as well as some straightforward criticism. "Any attempt to algorithmically detect sarcasm will fail because sarcasm is self-referential," writes science fiction author and longtime blogger Charlie Stross, "and the awareness that a sarcasm detector may be in use will change the intent behind the message."