back to article Oh, wow. US Secret Service wants a Twitter sarcasm-spotter

The US Secret Service wants to identify sarcastic tweeters from the serious in a bid that will surely cause its software to sink and buckle. A tender issued by the security agency sought a way to determine sentiment, identify influencers and section off those exercising the lowest form of wit across the twitter sphere. In …

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  1. Sampler

    Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

    Going to bomb the subway #lol

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

      You won't think you're so funny after three years in Guantanamo! Your appeal has been refused because we can't be sure you were being sarcastic until our sarcasm detection software works.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

        americans don't do humour (or even "humor")

        1. d3rrial

          Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

          @Cow Heard

          Yay, Germans no longer the most humorless people!

        2. Bob Wheeler

          Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

          I can testify to the American lack of humour, at least within the passport control/immigration desk.

          I flew into Seattle Airport, it had been a long flight, jet-lag, needing a smoke etc, I gave a 'sarcastic' answer to a standard question. Five hours later I was allowed into the good old US of A.

          Britsh Humour does not always travell well......

          1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

            Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

            Ouchy - rookie mistake.

          2. Rick Giles
            Joke

            Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

            "Britsh Humour..."

            Now there's an oxymoron...

          3. veti Silver badge

            @Bob Wheeler Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

            You really should know better than to try to make jokes at passport, immigration, customs or miscellaneous security staff at any airport in the world.

            Part of the problem is, they each deal with maybe a thousand passengers a day. If you're the first person that day to come up with that joke, you're doing well. Chances are they heard it three times yesterday, a couple on Monday, ten times last week, and all in all it's getting a bit thin now.

            But the bigger problem is, they're explicitly trained and paid to not detect sarcasm or humour. If the passenger says "I'm carrying a bomb", they have a rulebook they have to follow, no matter how much he's gurning.

            If you're lucky, you can get a friendly smile out of airport staff. Generally, by treating them like regular people who are just doing their jobs. But don't try for anything more than that.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Get a smile out of a US customs / immigration staff?

              Impossible. Miserable, arrogant attitude is what you'll get. Humour doesn't help one bit either

              1. MooseMonkey

                Re: Get a smile out of a US customs / immigration staff?

                Some "high up" in UK Customs told me they try to be friendly and polite at UK border points, because it helps them catch bad people.

                If your "entry guards" are known to be angry, arrogant, power hungry idiots, even the innocent are nervous, sweaty and showing signs of fear. If you are friendly and polite, the person in front of you who's a bit sweaty is the one you want to talk to.

                They had several knowledge exchanges with US Customs, and pointed out this simple fact, but they don't get it do they.

                I had the misfortune of three hours in the airport in New York, my crime was only having a small rucksac for luggage, so they assumed I was going to not go home again, or had something nasty in my small rucksac. They scanned that rucksac so many times it still glows in the dark. They didn't understand a two day trip to New Yorks doesn't need a huge suitcase.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

      lol = Loss of Limbs?

    3. Shaha Alam

      Re: Do terrorists really tweet about their intended acts?

      they do. but the apparent sarchasm in their posts meant noone was taking the threats seriously.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Headline, about a year from now

        US Secret Service seeks double entendre-spotter for Twitter

        1. AceRimmer

          Re: Headline, about a year from now

          "US Secret Service seeks double entendre-spotter for Twitter"

          Entrants must pass an oral exam

        2. Eddie Knopfler
          Coat

          Re: Headline, about a year from now

          Some woman from the US Secret Service asked me for a double entendre-spotter, so I gave her one.

  2. yakitoo

    Be even more fun when they try to upgrade it to irony level.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      Won't that need IE9 or above?

    2. Geoff Campbell
      Holmes

      Irony

      "Irony: Sarcasm for toffs" (c) Billy Connolly

      GJC

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. malle-herbert
          Joke

          Re: Mock away, but are you sure you know what irony is?

          Like rain on your wedding day ?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mock away, but are you sure you know what irony is?

            > Like rain on your wedding day ?

            The irony is that nothing in that song is actually ironic.

            1. This post has been deleted by its author

            2. Eddy Ito Silver badge
              Coat

              Re: Mock away, but are you sure you know what irony is?

              So irony is when your new Apple née Beats headset sound a bit tinny?

            3. Keep Refrigerated

              Re: Mock away, but are you sure you know what irony is?

              However the posting of that comment was ironic.

        2. TitterYeNot
          Coat

          Re: Irony

          "Mock away, but are you sure you know what irony is?"

          Of course we know what irony means, we're not stupid. It means 'a bit like iron.'

          Mine's the one with a copy of The Uxbridge English Dictionary in the pocket...

          1. Steven Raith

            Re: Irony

            You're all wrong.

            Irony is what gets the creases out of my shirt.

            Steven "Rimshot" R

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Irony

          i'm under the impression that yanks think Irony means Metallic

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Irony

        I thought Irony was what you played Golfy with

  3. as2003

    I'll do it for free

    def is_tweet_significant( text )

    return false

    end

    1. AceRimmer

      Re: I'll do it for free

      Guaranteed to be correct 99.9999999% of the time

      with a 0.0000000001% error rate

  4. frank ly

    Meanwhile, at a secret location ...

    ... a specialist team have been assembled to analyse the comments on The Register. It's a dangerous job and specialist counselling is not only available but is compulsory.

  5. lansalot

    ha

    Sarcasm detectors... yeah, that'll work...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Coffee/keyboard

      Re: ha

      You ********, my sarcasm meter just exploded… look what it's done to my keyboard!

      (Of course you're exactly right. What qualifies as sarcasm in one sub-culture could be completely misconstrued in another.)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Impossible

    Even most human brains have trouble detecting sarcasm.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Impossible

      Sheldon has that problem

    2. Ken 16 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Impossible

      You're not from around these parts, are you?

  7. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Would this help?

    I've got a generator based on the Twat-o-Tron that will generate nowtrage on demand for Twitter. Based on the number of followers it got, it managed to convince the public / other bots out there.

    What the fuck are "influencers"? Online hypnotists?

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Would this help?

      "influencers"

      The idiots that other idiots think have something worthwhile to say.

  8. Uffish

    Military Intelligence

    Elsewhere in El Reg:- DARPA crazytech crew want to create HUMAN-FREE cyber defence systems.

    Crack a joke in the twittosphere and a drone will be on its way to make your day go with a bang.

  9. thomas k.
    Facepalm

    Shouldn't be that hard to do

    Just look for the sarcasm tag - /s.

  10. Steven Jones

    A bit late for Paul Chambers

    If the UK authorities had such a filter, it might just have saved Paul Chambers quite a lot of trouble, as it was fairly clear that the police, prosecution and lower levels of the judiciary were completely unable to do it using normal judgement.

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: A bit late for Paul Chambers

      What if he'd only been pretending to be sarcastic? Johnny Terror is a devilish cunning fellow ...

  11. Frankee Llonnygog

    US Secret Service seeks sarcasm-spotter

    I wish them the very best of luck in their valuable endeavours

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Pun is the lowest form of Wit

    The original quote is from John Dryden in C17

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O._Henry_Pun-Off

    1. nijam

      Re: The Pun is the lowest form of Wit

      Whereas spoonerisms are the wowest form of lit.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Oh, a sarcasm detector. That's a *really* useful invention"

    1. Craig 2 Silver badge

      I really enjoy comments like this.

  14. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Joke

    The problem's been solved here already -->

    Oh, IE8 has a spot of bother with PNGs, doesn't it?

  15. DropBear Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Eh, easily done...

    Mandate compulsory <sarcasm></sarcasm> markup tags, legislate anything non-anodyne outside those as Legally Considered A Threat, and you're done. If you're having a particularly lazy day, you could even omit the first part! Oh, wait...

    1. Dr Scrum Master
      Headmaster

      Re: Eh, easily done...

      my opening sarcasm tag started long ago...

  16. Arachnoid

    Tunnel vision again

    Shirley some foreign [or home grown] mischief will just design a program to post random predefined "key words" or "coded text" on social media i.e. twitter just in the hope of confusing our American overlords.

    1. phuzz Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Tunnel vision again

      But that would make the US government look silly, what kind of monster would want to do something like that?

      1. Arachnoid

        10 10

        REFJS DSAIG DS/CX MJTSLG DSAPR CX./Z/

      2. Captain DaFt

        Re: Tunnel vision again

        "make the US government look silly, what kind of monster would want to do something like that?"

        From what I've seen during my life, most elected officials, all party leaders and their respective flunkies, have been engaged in an all out competition to do just that.

  17. Blacklight
    Coat

    Well...

    Just let it scan the el Reg forums and comments. That should keep it busy until the end of time...

    };^>

    1. Chemist

      Re: Well...

      "Just let it scan the el Reg forums and comments. That should keep it busy until the end of time..."

      S'enough to send an android paranoid

  18. Arachnoid
    Joke

    Just let it scan the el Reg forums and comments

    Yea but wouldn't we start losing regular contributors as they were round up and sent to Gitmo?

  19. breakfast

    A good opportunity

    This is a great opportunity for a British company to step in and make a huge amount of money by putting in a sarcastic bid for a hojillion dollars which they will be totally unable to detect. Genius.

  20. The elephant in the room

    Wayne's World-style proto-hastag detection?

    Perhaps they dont realise that some people (i.e. evil-doers) can be sarcastic without overtly flagging it in the manner of "I think the NSA are guardians of liberty... NOT!"

  21. Joefish
    Coat

    What's next?

    Accepting bids for a gullibility meter?

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. Brian Miller

    Doesn't the NSA have something?

    With all of the data hoarding the NSA has been doing, don't they have something they can let the Secret Service use? "Look, we've got some great regular expressions posted on the wall here." "Does that work in Internut Exploder 8?"

    Maybe the Secret Service should just outsource the problem to Amazon's Mechanical Turk. Oh, but you'd need people who speak English and can recognize sarcasm...

  24. Elmer Phud

    So

    If I posted something like 'OFG AMAZEBALLS!!!' on #Beiberfan it wouldn't get detected?

  25. sisk Silver badge

    Given the number of humans who are unable to spot sarcasm in text based communications I'm not optimistic about software based attempts to do so.

  26. The Grump
    Facepalm

    Captain Obvious says...

    Sarcasm is easy to spot because it's sarcastic. You're welcome, citizen.

  27. bigtimehustler

    "identify influencers" - that sounds particularly insidious! I hope they want to clarify that with influencers of criminal activity, and not just all people who may influence opinion. Which is what im pretty sure they really mean.

  28. Joefish
    Black Helicopters

    Maybe they could just offer a compulsory choice selection when you sign up with an ISP?

    Welcome to AOL! Please help us by answering the following questions:

    1. Do you want child filters turned off to get all that lovely pr0n? [YES] [NO]

    2. Are you going to be sarcastic on messaging services? [YES] [NO]

    3. Got any fruit on you? [YES] [NO]

    3a. btw, almost forgot, are you a terrorist? [YES] [NO]

  29. DougS Silver badge

    They're asking for true AI

    Being able to detect sarcasm better than a typical person would be far more difficult IMHO than beating a grandmaster in chess, or diagnosing disease better than a top doctor.

  30. Buster

    Since sarcasm depends on Irony and since the sarcasm detector will be located in the USA it would need to be shielded from the intense irony flux by some sort irony proof Faraday Cage for it to detect anything.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sarchasm

    Sarchasm (n)

    The gulf between the British capacity for sophisticated humour and the American inability to understand it.

  32. Herby

    Doesn't someone hold up a sign or something?

    Remember, Leonard DOES hold up a sign that says "Sarcasm", when he sees it. It helps Sheldon understand.

    Yes, the dividing line between the two is a fine one, and many times it is a bit difficult to tell the difference.

    As for Custom agents: "Look, I'd make a joke about it, but then you would need to do lots of paperwork, and I'd get detained for hours/days, so I'll skip it" A "reasonable" agent would understand.

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