DARPA envisions new Internet search paradigm; could help counter slavery and prostitution

ARLINGTON, Va., 6 Feb. 2014. U.S. military researches are trying to find new approaches for deep search of the Internet that unlike Google and Bing offer domain-specific indexing of web content and domain-specific search capabilities.

Information technology experts at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., this week released a broad agency announcement (DARPA-BAA-14-21) for the Memex program, which envisions a new paradigm that will enable users of the World Wide Web to organize a subset of the Internet relevant to their interests. DARPA will brief industry on the Memex program on 18 Feb. 2014.

Memex will develop technology to enable discovery, organization, and presentation of domain-relevant content, and provide fast, flexible, and efficient access to domain-specific content, DARPA officials say. the program also seeks to develop search interfaces that provide insights into domains that previously remained unexplored.

Related: DARPA to brief industry 18 Feb. on program to create new Internet search paradigm

Among the chief goals of the Memex program is to counter how the Internet enables crimes involving human trafficking such as prostitution and slavery, DARPA officials say. The use of forums, chats, advertisements, job postings, and hidden services continues to enable a growing industry of modern slavery.

An index curated for the counter trafficking domain, which includes labor and sex trafficking, and configurable interfaces for search and analysis, will enable a new opportunity to defeat trafficking enterprises, DARPA officials say.

Today's Web searches are limited by a one-size-fits-all approach of commercial Internet search providers, which offers a centralized search that limits details and what gets indexed, DARPA researchers say.

Related: From DARPA to Main Street

Common practice misses information in the deep Web and ignores shared content across pages. Today's largely manual search process does not save sessions or allow sharing, requires nearly exact input with one at a time entry, and doesn't organize or aggregate results beyond a list of links.

The DARPA Memex program seeks to change all that. The goal is to develop software that will enable domain-specific indexing of public Web content and domain-specific search capabilities that enable content discovery, information extraction, information retrieval, user collaboration for distributed aggregation, analysis, and presentation of Web content.

The current one-size-fits-all approach to Internet indexing and search limits use to the business cases of commercial Web search companies like Google, Yahoo, Ask, and Bing. The Memex program seeks to move beyond today's largely manual process of searching for exact text in a centralized index.

Related: DARPA launches PPAML artificial intelligence program to move machine learning forward

The program also seeks to overcome today's Web search shortcomings such as limited scope and richness of indexed content, and the lack of collaboration or history beyond the search term, as today's basic search interfaces offer only separate and independent sessions.

The Memex program will consist of three technical areas: domain-specific indexing; domain-specific search; and applications. Several contracts will be awarded, and companies participating in the Memex program will be expected to work together, and use open-source technology.

Domain-specific indexing involves a scalable Web crawling infrastructure for content discovery and information extraction that adapts to continuously changing data, changing site administration, data items being extended, transformed, becoming stale, or deleted.

Related: DARPA launches RATS program for advanced speech-recognition algorithms in noisy conditions

Domain-specific search involves a configurable domain-specific interface into Web content that may include conceptually aggregated results like a person, links, locations, entity movement, and recommendations based on user model and augmented index.

Applications will involve system-level concepts of operation and deployment development, case development, requirements analysis, documentation, interface design, and feedback for hardening the application.

The program's example domain of interest is counter human trafficking, especially the commercial sex trade, which is relevant to many types of military, law enforcement, and intelligence investigations, DARPA officials say.

Related: DARPA eyes space-based Internet for persistent battlefield data communications, surveillance, and satellite control

An index curated for the counter trafficking domain, including labor and sex trafficking, and configurable interfaces for search and analysis, will help military, law enforcement, legal, and intelligence authorities to act against trafficking enterprises. Other domains of interest are found data, missing persons, and counterfeit goods.

Companies interested should submit abstracts online no later than 25 Feb. 2014 at https://www.i2osupport.csc.com/baa/index.asp. Proposals are due online no later than 8 April 2014 at https://www.i2osupport.csc.com/baa/index.asp. A proposers day is on 18 Feb. 2014.

For questions or concerns email Christopher White, the DARPA Memex program manager, at Memex@darpa.mil. More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/ODA/DARPA/CMO/DARPA-BAA-14-21/listing.html.

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