Defense Seeks New Social Network Strategy

Got an idea for the latest social network?

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to hear it -- and may offer $42 million to make it a reality. DARPA put out a call for proposals on July 14, and officially presented the project on Tuesday at a briefing held at System Planning Corporation, a military contractor.

Specifically, DARPA is seeking approaches that go beyond evolutionary improvements to existing systems and practices in social networking. Instead, the agency seeks a revolutionary idea that would, among other things, measure and track the formation and spread of ideas and memes, recognize patterns of persuasion across communities, identify the effects of these persuasion campaigns and counter them with defense's own influence operations.

"Entirely new phenomena are emerging that require thinking about social interactions in a new way. The tools that we have today for awareness and defense in the social media space are heavily dependent on chance," the announcement said. "We must eliminate our current reliance on a combination of luck and unsophisticated manual methods."

This is not the Defense Department's first push towards social networking. In June 2009, U.S. forces in Afghanistan set up accounts on established social networks Twitter and Facebook, in order to reach out to Afghan youth.

A year later, the Kabul Embassy explored the idea of building a new social network to connect various groups in the country.

The proposals for the current project are due August 30.