The US Secret Service has put out a tender for the development of a system which can detect sarcasm in social media posts.
Just hold on a sec while I pop off to my Facebook account and post about how this is such a brilliant idea on all fronts!
Ahem. Anyway, the system the USSS is soliciting quotes for is a "computer based annual social media analytics subscription" on a five year contract, and as Ed Donovan, a spokesman for the Secret Service noted, it aims to go considerably beyond just detecting whether a tweet is sarcastic or not.
Donovan told Sky News: "Our objective is to automate our social media monitoring process. The ability to detect sarcasm and false positives is just one of 16 or 18 things we are looking at."
He added: "We are looking for the ability to quantity our social media outreach. We aren't looking solely to detect sarcasm."
The listed points under "specific requirements" of the tender other than sarcasm detection include real-time social stream analysis, trend analysis, geographic segmentation, keyword search (and multiple languages supported), access to historical Twitter data, analysis of data over a period of time, and the facility to gauge the agency's social media footprint.
Basically, we're talking about a fully automated social media data crunching machine, which will presumably bring any relevant matters to the attention of human operators. Though detecting sarcasm is a tricky task for even many humans online, in our past experience of forums and comment threads – so Lord knows how an algorithm or six will perform in this respect.
Next stop, an irony detector (just make sure Alanis Morissette isn't involved in that particular project).