US spy operation that manipulates social media

The Guardian reports:

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”.

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Comments

  1. Vince J. says:

    They did that with the alledged phone calls in 9/11. Their recorded conversations were false. Phones didn’t work then.

  2. dickerson3870 says:

    I imagine the CIA, Mossad, and MI6 (at a minimum) have been doing this for a good while. Smells like ‘Big Brother’ to me!
    P.S. I hate to be a stickler (lol), but wouldn’t the use of this by the US military (or the CIA) to propagandize US residents/citizens be a violation of US law? Not that US law would stop them!

  3. dickerson3870 says:

    They often get around US and UK laws by trading/bartering with one another. The CIA gets MI6 to propagandize for it in the US and MI6 gets the CIA to propagandize for it in the UK. Throw in the Mossad and other intelligence agencies, and it’s a regular free-for-all!

  4. This must have been happening already — where else did these ridiculous right wing opinions on news sites etc come from? It could actually be a good development — real people could safely ignore the scab comments that clearly come from sock puppets.