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GREAT Idea: Secret Service Seeks Software That Can Identify Sarcasm

Alyssa Bereznak

GREAT Idea: Secret Service Seeks Software That Can Identify Sarcasm

Enterprising software companies of the world take note: America’s Secret Service — the heroes tasked with protecting national leaders, keeping high-profile events safe, and partying hard in Amsterdam — are looking for a digital tool to identify sarcasm in Twitter and Facebook posts.

Seriously. Per an original report from Nextgov, the premiere news source for federal software acquisitions:

“In a work order posted on Monday, the agency details information the tool will collect — ranging from emotions of Internet users to old Twitter messages.

“Its capabilities will include ‘sentiment analysis,’ ‘influencer identification,’ ‘access to historical Twitter data,’ ‘ability to detect sarcasm,’ and ‘heat maps’ or graphics showing user trends by color intensity, agency officials said.”

Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan told The Age that this feature is just a small part of the government organization’s comprehensive security tools. 

“Our objective is to automate our social media monitoring process,” Donovan said. “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.”

The need for this software might be due to the Secret Service’s really super track record of correctly reading social media posts and ensuring justice. 

Take, for instance, the now infamous day in 2012 that 26-year-old national threat Leigh Van Bryan tweeted that he planned to “destroy America” when he arrived. The British madman was promptly handcuffed and placed in a cell with Mexican drug dealers for 12 hours. 


Then there was that time in 2013 when a Texas teen posted a sarcastic Facebook comment in which he joked about shooting up “a school full of kids.” He was penalized with a third-degree felony charge and a $500,000 bail. Really hilarious joke, buddy.

And who could forget the most recent instance, in which a Twitter user from the Netherlands was arrested in April, after tweeting a joke about an American Airlines bomb threat. She’ll think twice the next time she’s tempted to troll these purple mountain majesties.

Keep up the great work, Secret Service. We’re all really looking forward to your sarcasm detection tool.

Follow Alyssa Bereznak on Twitter or email her here.