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Familiar with all Internet traditions
June 24, 2014 6:41 AM   Subscribe

I was sitting NIFOC and TLOL when I ran across this list of Internet slang [PDF] developed for FBI agents trying to navigate Twitter's ARE.

The list was released due to a FOIA request by Muckrock, which is attempting to crowdsource the proper digitization of the almost illegible, 83 page, list.
posted by sparklemotion (44 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
FTP
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:48 AM on June 24


what, did they print it on a dot matrix printer?
posted by entropone at 6:53 AM on June 24 [12 favorites]


While the drone and ordnance budgets have grown, the printer budget has not.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:56 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why this list is worthy of notice and, presumably, scorn.

If you came to my workplace you would definitely need a primer on the abbreviations we use to communicate all the time, and, lo and behold, we would have one to give you. Regardless, I wouldn't consider you worthy of scorn for not knowing that FSMHCs (Free Standing Mental Health Clinics) cannot provide MHRS (Mental Health Rehabilitation Services) because the SPA (Medicaid State Plan Amendment), especially as detailed in 34 (Title 22-A, Chapter 24 of the DCMR (D.C. Municipal Regulations)), precludes it, largely because the QPs (Qualified Practitioners) for MHRS include credentialed staff.
posted by OmieWise at 7:00 AM on June 24 [6 favorites]


420 . . . . . . . Drugs

Why be specific when all Drugs are equally bad?

Also: The DI's Intelligence Research Support Unit (IRSU) has put together an extensive - but far from exhaustive - list of shorthand and acronyms used in Twitter and other social media venues such as instant messages, Facebook and Myspace.

If that's true, that they compiled this list themselves, that recently, yikes. First, they're just a little bit late to the ball, and second, that's a terrific waste of resources seeing as they could have taken ten seconds to google and copy/paste such a list from any of a kajillion 20-year-old websites.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:06 AM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Holy smokes, MSR is in there.

Actual FBI agents learning about Mulder/Scully. My heart!

(Also, I would guess - printed from Sharepoint (seriously?), then faxed, then scanned, all on fairly crappy machines.)
posted by Katemonkey at 7:09 AM on June 24


Yeah but these are not formal inventions. The technology of Twitter (and IRC and other things) is creating an emergent informal language that is entirely built on idioms expressed as acronyms.
posted by stbalbach at 7:09 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


BOMB -- Buy our mechandise buddy.
JIHAD -- Just ignore him already dude.
ALQAEDA -- All lovers quietly avoid every damaging argument


Man if we just had this list 11 years ago. Awkward!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:11 AM on June 24 [14 favorites]


FBI - Funny Boys on the Internet
posted by mullacc at 7:13 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure why this list is worthy of notice and, presumably, scorn.

It's worthy of notice because come on, it's 83 pages. And I don't know about scorn, but I found in amusing both in a "kids these days, get off my lawn" kind of sense, and in a "maybe they missed the point about not all acronyms being "real" you know? Like WYLABOCTGWTR.

And then there is the image quality, which opens up a whole 'nother set of questions. Like, are they trying to make the FOIA requesters work harder? Is it some security thing? Is this the best representation they could possibly make of the image? Why not pull a PDF straight from sharepoint?
posted by sparklemotion at 7:15 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Also, based on the fact that there is LOTR, POTC, RPF, and TARDIS in there, I'm guessing they had an intern trawling Livejournal around 2003. Why only RPF and not FPF or even just / is beyond me.

And I've changed my concept of how they filled this FOIA request. Screencapped the Sharepoint pages, printed them out, faxed them over, and then scanned them in.

Secretly, I just love the fact that I can use the <abbr> tag again.
posted by Katemonkey at 7:18 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


This so reminds me of those hilarious lists of "street slang" names for drugs the DARE cops used to give us during Just Say No indoctrination!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:21 AM on June 24


This does help explain why Jack Crawford is so out of his depth half the time.
posted by The Whelk at 7:39 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


AMIICFWIW
posted by y2karl at 7:40 AM on June 24


There are some classics

KTBSPA    Keep the backstreet pride alive
LLTA         Lots and Lots of thunderous applause
LOVL      laughing out very loud
NIFOC    naked in front of computer
NMJCU    not much just chill'n you?
OMGNA    Oh my gosh, not again
ROTFFNAR    rolling on the floor for no apparent reason
SYTYCD    so you think you can dance
TARDIS      time and relative dimensions in space
VBSEG       very big s**t eating grin


I think these should be required usage on MiFi (well at least we've kept MIFI off the gmen's radar)
posted by sammyo at 7:44 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


This so reminds me of those hilarious lists of "street slang" names for drugs the DARE cops used to give us during Just Say No indoctrination!

It's called a menu, dude.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:44 AM on June 24 [4 favorites]


muted golf clap for the FBI's anti-OCR method: masking the scanned image with diagonal (dashed?) lines.
posted by scruss at 7:47 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


It's pretty cute that the FBI feels the need to asterisk out swear words in an internal document. About the internet.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:00 AM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Also:
YAS - "You are sexy"
posted by mustard seeds at 8:06 AM on June 24


I'm not sure why this list is worthy of notice and, presumably, scorn.

If you came to my workplace you would definitely need a primer on the abbreviations we use to communicate all the time, and, lo and behold, we would have one to give you


Sure, but this is an intelligence agency with a budget of billions. I guess I'd like to think they could hire some people who are at least as internet-savvy as my old ass, and could check, you know, google or something when they come across an acronym they don't know. And hopefully know a lot more of these than I do in the first place.
posted by Hoopo at 8:06 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


TARDIS time and relative dimensions in space

That's a great example of an accurate and pointlessly unhelpful definition. If you don't already know what the TARDIS is, that isn't going to get you anywhere.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 8:26 AM on June 24 [8 favorites]


Lest we forget ...
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:27 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Given the regularity of the corruption of existing letters and the complete lack of stray black pixels I'd say the document was released this way on purpose, presumably to discourage OCR.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:51 AM on June 24


It looks to me like text in some color other than black, being rendered for printout on a low-resolution monochrome printer.

It looks halftoned, basically.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 8:54 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


TARDIS time and relative dimensions in space

That's a great example of an accurate and pointlessly unhelpful definition. If you don't already know what the TARDIS is, that isn't going to get you anywhere.


Given that the document is crowdsourced -- or at least FBI employees sourced -- I suspect some of the entries are a bit tongue-in-cheek.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:11 AM on June 24


Also on an entirely unrelated note: how do you talk with your tongue in your cheek?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:12 AM on June 24


You don't. The idea is that you do it immediately afterwards to prevent yourself from laughing.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:31 AM on June 24


what, did they print it on a dot matrix printer?

Looks like a 200 DPI fax to me
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 10:44 AM on June 24


Sure, but this is an intelligence agency with a budget of billions. I guess I'd like to think they could hire some people who are at least as internet-savvy as my old ass, and could check, you know, google or something when they come across an acronym they don't know.

This seems to me like a fairly myopic view of how a list like this might get used at a place like the FBI. Just to start with, it assumes that easy internet access is a given when someone is reading twitter transcripts. It assumes that there is no value in an "official" list of slang for use in composing or reviewing reports. It assumes that standard and customary ways of proceeding with determining meaning are worthless in the face of Google.

In short, the knee jerk position of scorn reads to me as pretty unsophisticated. Sure, I know how to google internet slang, and that ability has elucidated something for me plenty of times. But the notion that this is useless because there is google, or that its existence indicates a lack of understanding of the internet works, is weird.
posted by OmieWise at 10:53 AM on June 24


The notion of an "official" list of slang is at least as weird.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:56 AM on June 24


Why? People have been making dictionaries and lists of slang forever. Think of this as part of the FBIs stylebook.
posted by OmieWise at 11:03 AM on June 24


Maybe the FBI doesn't want Google tracking them?
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:35 AM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Think of this as part of the FBIs stylebook.

Except stylebooks generally usually don't mention grandchildren and pretty much never have an invitation to "Feel free to add an entry by clicking on the New tab below."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:37 AM on June 24


Remember that the ostensible mission of the FBI is to investigate major crimes. Almost no such investigations will ever require agents to know what TARDIS stands for; similarly for almost all the items on the list.

What to make of this, then? It seems to me that this goofy, almost cute list actually stands for something rather sinister: that the FBI is monitoring and surveilling a tremendous amount of ordinary communications that have no bearing on criminal investigations (or "national security"). They are watching us in the places where we play and hang out, and so they must learn our ways.

This is not the blockbuster disclosure of FBI spying, obviously. The list doesn't prove anything in particular. More importantly, we already know from numerous other disclosures that the FBI (along with other security organs) is spying on a wide range of activities and communications that are totally innocuous as well as constitutionally protected.

The ridiculousness of this document is informed by its place in that larger picture.
posted by grobstein at 12:10 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


Maybe the readability issues are a product of something (font, maybe?) designed to protect from Van Eck surveillance?
posted by XMLicious at 2:32 PM on June 24


Well, there ya go. The FBI is using outdated internet slang (according to this article I read on the internet), so they're obviously a bunch of doddering old fools. I have nothing to fear from them, after all!
posted by IAmBroom at 2:56 PM on June 24


Doddering old fools with guns and badges are more—not less—scary.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:03 PM on June 24 [1 favorite]


If this is how FBI agents approach infiltrating Twitter, it's not going to work. Since I assume Twitter's thoroughly compromised, I suspect this is not the reference document that actual spies use.
posted by gingerest at 5:04 PM on June 24


Man, this here is a whole lot of assumptions about why the list was made, how it is used, and when it was made.

When I worked at a tech-oriented place, this kind of thing came up once or twice. All of us ground-level workers knew the tech terminology. The managers, who were formerly ground-level workers, also knew the tech terminology. But every once in a while we'd have a meeting which also involved people from sales or the like, and they'd get kinda lost in the acronyms. It doesn't seem remotely unreasonable to assume that the FBI agents know these terms, but that at some point, likely years ago (hence how dated the terms are), some higher-up was annoyed at getting reports containing words he wasn't familiar with, like DTMFA or IAADBIANYD, and asked underlings to write up a list. It also doesn't seem remotely unreasonable that the underlings just found some online list of acronyms, or a few online lists of acronyms, and said "Here you go, we compiled a list of terms". It also doesn't seem remotely unreasonable that the list is not actually used by field agents, because they already know this stuff or they google it instead.

Now, I don't know if any of that is true. It just seems a reasonable hypothesis, one of many possible reasonable hypotheses. The mere existence of this list is nowhere close to sufficient to deciding whether the FBI is a bunch of computer wizards or doddering old fools.
posted by Bugbread at 5:21 PM on June 24 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't be caught dead swingin' on the flippity-flop with these lamestains.
posted by flippant at 9:09 PM on June 24 [3 favorites]


Harsh realm, man.
posted by Bugbread at 9:12 PM on June 24 [4 favorites]


Almost no such investigations will ever require agents to know what TARDIS stands for [...]

I think there's a lot of value in knowing that certain abbreviations are innocuous, and even more value in being able to document that. When investigators come across an unfamiliar abbreviation they can't just say "Oh, that doesn't make any sense, I'll skip over it"; they have a duty to investigate it. And even if they know what it means they can't just say "Oh, everybody knows that TARDIS refers to the time-travelling vehicle used by a British TV character," or "ROFL is an expression of humor and incredulity". With this document, they can cite a reference, which means that no more resources need be spent on investigation. When you consider that investigators are probably expected to parse thousands of messages a day you can see that a saving of (at least) a couple of minutes is very significant. Honestly, this document is a really good thing, and it primarily benefits computer users (who will face fewer needless investigations), not the FBI.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:24 PM on June 24


RPG: role-playing games/rocket propelled grenade

I'll bet that one is no end of headaches for them.
posted by double block and bleed at 6:03 PM on June 25


RPG: role-playing games/rocket propelled grenade

That may explain the Steve Jackson Games raid.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:21 PM on June 25 [1 favorite]


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