Friday, March 18, 2011

Flashback - - Operation Troll

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media by creating online sockpuppets to spread propaganda

"Military's 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to spread pro-American propaganda

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities - known to users of social media as "sock puppets" - could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".

Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks said: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."

He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be unlawful to "address US audiences" with such technology, and any English-language use of social media by Centcom was always clearly attributed. The languages in which the interventions are conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated Facebook messages, blogposts, tweets, retweets, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command.

Centcom's contract requires for each controller the provision of one "virtual private server" located in the United States and others appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world."

Sure, this bullshit is nothing new, but the militarization of of the software can be used to end anonymity and criminal misuse will destroy meaningful debate, pushing important issues to the sidelines.. Basically it's a war on the internet.
A lookup of Ntrepid's site shows one black page with it's name on it and an email address. A Whois search reveals nothing. But it's suspiciously similar in intent with the hasbara Megaphonies and other armies of trolls that Israel's been using for years.


Anonymous greencrow said...

This has been going on for years. In the good old days of the New York Times forums I used to get regularly mobbed by gangs of pseudo posters who were memri/megaphony trolls.

It really makes you understand how terrified "they" are of the humble poster sitting in their nightshirt in the middle of the night trying to speak truth to power.


18/3/11 10:46 AM  
Blogger nolocontendere said...

Yeah, I'm sure the manipulating mindset saw very early on the opportunity to hoodwink via internet chicanery, and incorporated activities like that in their agendas. The very fact that the military actually revealed a piece of the action means it's only the tip of the iceberg.
Some years back I used to frequent a gun forum and there were obvious hasbara plants fomenting muslim hatred among the redneck mouthbreathers. I thought it was great fun exposing and destroying them. Even earlier in 1999 when I was still using AOL I battled censorship on their forums about Clinton's Operation Serbia Dismantling, so the institutionalization of ziofascist agendas goes back a ways. I'm afraid that their philosophy now is ~ if you can't beat it, destroy it~.

18/3/11 3:14 PM  

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