Sentiment analysis – the process of identifying positive, negative, or neutral emotion – across online communications has become a growing focus for both commercial and defense communities. Understanding the sentiment of online conversations can help businesses process customer feedback and gather insights to improve their marketing efforts. From a defense perspective, sentiment can be an important signal for online information operations to identify topics of concern or the possible actions of bad actors. The presence of sarcasm – a linguistic expression often used to communicate the opposite of what is said with an intention to insult or ridicule – in online text is a significant hindrance to the performance of sentiment analysis. Detecting sarcasm is very difficult owing largely to the inherent ambiguity found in sarcastic expressions.
“Sarcasm has been a major hurdle to increasing the accuracy of sentiment analysis, especially on social media, since sarcasm relies heavily on vocal tones, facial expressions, and gestures that cannot be represented in text,” said Brian Kettler, a program manager in DARPA’s Information Innovation Office (I2O). “Recognizing sarcasm in textual online communication is no easy task as none of these cues are readily available.”