File under “we can’t make this stuff up.”

Reason reports on a program the National Science Foundation has financed to the tune of over $919,000.

Researchers at Indiana University have created a web service that monitors “suspicious memes” and so-called “false and misleading ideas,” with an attempt to “detect political smears, astoturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”

According to its website, the “Truthy” database will “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution.”

They go on to explain:

While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns. Truthy uses a sophisticated combination of text and data mining, social network analysis, and complex networks models.

Is this interesting research? Sure. Is it worth funding on our dime?

Sadly, 900 thousand dollars is barely a drop in the bucket when it comes to federal spending. But in a time of budget shortfalls and skyrocketing debt, things like this are certainly worth scrutinizing.