guardian.co.uk

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.

Business as usual.




  1. Taxed Enough Already Dude says:

    #28 Answer redo:

    Obama’s South America trip, which has absolutely nothing to do with the Middle East, Japan, Jobs in the US, proves my point.

    He gave speeches on all those subjects….he’s done all he can…now its up others to implement his ideas…he needs a vacation.

    He will break all records in spending on this trip, because bankrupting America…he is all over that…on the job 24/7.

  2. Howard Beale says:

    # 29
    #28 “Like what? Destroy the economy, bankrupt the country…insist on spending trillions we don’t have?”

    Remember that was Bush, Obama might have just saved economy and many vital industries from collapse. Ya I wish he would have spank the banks but if I only disapprove of 20% of a President decisions thats great in a representative democracy.

    “Obama is engaged with his czars…he doesn’t talk to his cabinet”

    You have no idea who he talks to, when or how often only that formal cabinet meetings are rare. And the Cabinet serves at the pleasure of the President and any President can use them as he/>she wishes. Hardly a day goes by that I wish Bush was not listening to Rumsfeld.

    But Trying to explain something to you is a tough, uphill battle. Reason cannot be used, hard data is useless as well enjoy your dream world.

  3. Howard Beale says:

    If you think any US President can not conduct the Countries business form Air Force One you are a fool.

  4. chris says:

    #28 & #31

    Obama moves efficiently through pieces of legislation, but there is much less than meets the eye.

    To me it looks like he avoids the difficult fights entirely, accepting a few bites around the edges.

    We are witnessing a few hooked up business sectors that are consuming way more resources than their value to society. It is very much like cancer. Some of those who benefit are Democrat leaning donors and some that donate to Republicans, the most of big ones donate to both and lean toward the CW of who will win next.

    Might not be the truth, but that is my read of the cause of the market/political dysfunction that we live with.

    Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt fought this, Eisenhower referenced it, and Carter was too nice a dude to really see it. Every other US President in the 20-21st century are at least moderately complicit.

    I think Obama is entirely complicity. I will believe this until I see Obama broker a deal that is even moderately damaging to the FIRE industries(Finance-Insurance-Real Estate).

    This is utility stuff that should be a small percentage of overall profits. For all the talk of how complicated banking or insurance is don’t believe it.

    If you exclude construction, the financial intermediation in these industries should be under 5% of GDP combined. That is even a bit generous.

    These guys screw their investors with high fees, screw the government by running roughshod over regulations, and screw the public by creating the need for endless bailouts.

    It is grand theft via accounting fraud. It is public AND private. In fact, it is the original public-private cooperation. It goes back decades. In banking scandals to the SNL scandal, and in defense to Vietnam. Probably further.

    And Obama ain’t got shit to say about it.

  5. chris says:

    On the thread topic:

    I heard a long time ago that a lot of the initial VC funding for social media sites came from US intelligence agencies.

    It offered an opportunity for people to give information, and an opportunity to develop/test tools that interpret that information.

    Who knows, one hears so many things…

  6. bobbo, knowledge is power, but power is an illusion says:

    #26–Ah Yea==I do respect the links you provide. At least there is “some” basis for the claptrap you post, not just made up or uniformly kneejerk as TEAdude is==although you are asymptotic to his idiocy.

    Taken as true, Clinton wants Obama to take unilateral action against Libya, and Obama doesn’t while Obama encourages UN or Nato to take on this primary role while we are still stationed in 54 foreign countries and actively engaged in 3-4 wars?

    And that’s doing “nothing” in your book?

    Ok.

    Tell us again: why should we/USA give a flick about Libya? I don’t care, why should Obama?

  7. Taxed Enough Already Dude says:

    #32http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_United_States_federal_budget

    You are confused, Bush’ last budget was 3.107 trillion, 407 billion deficit; Obama’s 3.7 trillion, 1.1 trillion deficit.

    BUT in 2006 Republicans like myself rejected big spenders, and we didn’t vote, Democrats won so the budget from 2007 on is their Budget, not Bush’s:

    The last Republican budget was 2.6 billion, 248.2 billion deficit in 2006.

    So Obama and the democrats have ballooned the budget 70%, and the deficit more than 300%, almost doubling the national debt in less than 6 years…and they want to double it again with no end in sight.

    They refused to cut even the paltry few billion in the last continuing resolulution and have called these cuts “draconian.”

    They are sick.

    They WANT America destroyed by debt, that is their goal, their words and public display of fidelity to the country, mere optics. They are a fifth column who should be in jail, Gitmo would be best.

  8. Taxed Enough Already Dude says:

    #34 Obama with super majorities rammed through legislation the majority of the country didn’t want.

    But you cannot, even remotely, suggest he is engaged…while the world burns, he is making sports picks, or playing golf, or flying to South America…

    When he checks in, its to his fellow marxist operatives destroying America:

    http://google.com/search?q=white+house+visits+soros+trumpka&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a#hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=ZVH&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&sa=X&ei=6nWDTbCQLJTCsAPwkonyAQ&ved=0CBMQBSgA&q=white+house+visits+soros+trumka&spell=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=ff3e2739446bc197

    Obama invested billions of taxpayer money in G. Soros’ oil venture in Brazil where they will drill in water much deeper than the BP rig did…

    His shutting down US production has greatly enriched that investment, while impoverishing oil workers and the country as a whole.

    Obama is single handedly taking us down, and the lefties in South America no doubt want his autograph…

  9. Taxed Enough Already Dude says:

    #34 The fundamental progressive premise, Government is good, allows the evils you list, to exist.

    The fundamental premise of the founders, Government is evil, believed in enumerated powers, limited Government, to restrain its evil.

    Everyone who hates Government theft, fraud, mismanagement, waste, etc, should be conservative constitutionalists…the ONLY way to make a politician honest, is to keep him unemployed…and the ONLY way we do that, is to use only a few of them in a small government.

  10. bobbo, knowledge is power, but power is an illusion says:

    TEAstupid==recognizing that private enterprise must be regulated for the good of all==including those regulated, does not in your insipid view mean government is viewed as “good.” No, it is however regrettably necessary as the worst ills of government are far more acceptable than the common errors of free market enterprise–by orders of magnitude.

    If there was no such thing as government, it wouldn’t take long to form in view of the excesses ALWAYS taken by entrepreneurs looking for the fastest buck possible, always thinking their excesses are a product of their intelligence rather than their criminality.

    You greed and self indulgence groupies are not less pathetic than any other groupie.

    Groupie TEAstupid. Imagine him hiding in your hotel closet?

  11. Ah_Yea says:

    This one’s a real hoot. Talks about Bit O’s incoherent energy policy from the viewpoint of a Liberal that isn’t entirely brain dead.
    http://wwl.com/Garland–Pres–Obama–I-too-am-exhausted-defending/9394854

  12. Ah_Yea says:

    And this is very funny. Talk about the Huffington post’s use of unpaid contributors (who built the site) and how they are STILL unpaid even as Ariana Huffington takes 300 million for their work.
    Typical two faced Liberal.
    http://dailycaller.com/2011/03/17/newspaper-guild-huffington-post-strike/

  13. JimD says:

    I like the Sock Puppet ! But is that a STEEL FIST inside ???

  14. Howard Beale says:

    Alf Doesn’t Want to Pay His Fair Share Dude #s> well just about all of them he is so prolific.

    Yea it cost a lot to put our country back in business after the Republicans were in charge, because of the mess they left we can’t spend on any NEW Social Programs that would be good for the nation.

    Lets look at the Clinton surplus Bush blew on his Wars that we still can’t get out of because of.

    Trying to explain something to you is a tough, uphill battle. Reason cannot be used, hard data is useless as well enjoy your dream world you love to hate. I guess its a life not one I’d want. I pity you.

  15. chris says:

    #38

    “Obama invested billions of taxpayer money in G. Soros’ oil venture in Brazil … His shutting down US production has greatly enriched that investment, while impoverishing oil workers and the country as a whole.”

    Obama was responding to political pressure in wake of the largest non-land spill in history. His judgment was also informed by Hurricane Katrina and its effect on Bush II. It has nothing to do with Soros.

    #39

    I think it misses the point to say government is this or that. Government is going to perform in different ways based on how it is run.

    I always think the same thing about people saying that an organization is becoming “more corporate.” This seems to be code for ‘an asshole manager who has little knowledge and less inclination to learn’.

    You need to move past labels.

  16. Glenn E. says:

    This is nothing new. It’s also been called “Astroturfing”. Look it up on Wikipedia. It’s how corporations in America get certain politicians and Presidents elected to office. And convince the public that legislation their Congress voted for, was in response to public demand. A huge phonied up “public” that is. Some claim that the Tea Party is mostly an Astroturfing scheme. “Sock Puppets” is to kind a term. How about e-Scabs?

  17. Glenn E. says:

    This news about the US Military invading the social networks, strikes me as being very naive, at the very least. And a down right cover-up, at worst. That’s because the Military Industrial Complex has technically invaded our “social network” for decades. In the form of our Movies and Television shows. Dictating, steering, and censoring, their scripts. To reflect and promote whatever views the Military wishes. It was all spelled out in David L. Robb’s book “Operation Hollywood”.

    Worse case example, John Wayne’s “The Green Beret”, pro-Vietnam War movie. But not the only case of the military manipulating what a movie is all about, concerning itself. Like the blatantly pro-militaristic Michael Bey “Transformers” movies. And there are also others, that have little to do with any War, that gets the Pentagon’s going over.

    And there seem to be no shortage of pro-military Tv series. When one finally ends, like “JAG” (which survived on three networks!), another soon takes its place, like “The Unit”. And then of course there is the military version of “CSI”, called “NCIS” and “NCIS LA”. The first of which has probably been kept going on CBS, far longer than its ratings would justify. But I’m sure it serves the US Military’s propaganda and recruitment needs, just fine. So it stays on, and on, and on, and on. More a PR thing, than pro-War.

    So the latest wrinkle is that the US Military has discovered some value to the Internet’s social network, and is now manipulating that too. SURPRISE!! Your tax money at work, LYING TO YOU, to further some elitists’ careers, and keep the Military Budget Billions flowing strong. Oh yeah, and keep the kids enlisting. Gotta have that cheap disposable labor force.

  18. Glenn E. says:

    ‘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”.’

    So they can’t be taken somewhere and waterboarded, as Dick Cheney prefers interrogations be performed.

    It’s claimed it won’t be done in English. To avoid unduly influencing American or Allied social media. Yeah, right. Until that too becomes “necessary” to thwart terrorism.

    ‘Centcom confirmed that the $2.76m contract was awarded to Ntrepid, a newly formed corporation registered in Los Angeles. Nobody was available for comment at Ntrepid.’

    Ntrepid is probably just all the executives and brain trusts that bailed out of HBGary Federal last month. Why a “new formed corporation”? Isn’t that a bit of a security risk, dealing with an unknown entity? Unless their personnel IS already known to Pentagon brass. Can you say Conflict of Interest? I can.

    ‘OEV is seen by senior US commanders as a vital counter-terrorism and counter-radicalization programme. In evidence to the US Senate’s armed services committee last year, General David Petraeus, then commander of Centcom, described the operation as an effort to “counter extremist ideology and propaganda and to ensure that credible voices in the region are heard”. He said the US military’s objective was to be “first with the truth”.’

    Since when did the US military’s job become countering “radicalization”? Or even
    “terrorism”, for that matter. That’s rich, a military organization countering terrorism, they’re not directly responsible for causing themselves. And “radicalization” is a political distinction. Not everyone in the world might agree with what the US Army broadly classifies, as their culture or belief system being. When and how did the US Military get its purpose (job) changed to policing and manipulating what’s said by other cultures about, ANYTHING?!

    BTW, It just occurred to me that the Voice of America is still in operation. It receives about $206 million a year. And it now heard over the Internet. Not just shortwave. But it’s more a tool of the US State Department. Or some civilian branch of the government, not so much the US Military. So what, the military needs its own propaganda channel? It doesn’t trust the VOA to gets the job done? “Get `er done!”

    Whenever I hear or read something like this article, I have to ask. How is this NOT just like what Nazi Germany would have done, if it had the technology back then. Or the Soviet Union, during the Cold War? About the only thing missing are the Tanks and Rockets on parade, down Mainstreet America. No the US military is a more subtle propagandist.

  19. Taxed Enough Already Dude says:

    Does Organizing for America Chief Justice Kagen’s “de-skewers of conservative internet speech” use this software?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  20. Taxed Enough Already Dude says:

    Not “chief”, “supreme court justice, E. Kagen.”

  21. ® says:

    Fun game: guess which of the regulars on DU are sockpuppets. Subdivide by automated, and automatons.

  22. MikeN says:

    Libya is starting to look like Kosovo redux. War not authorized by Congress. At least this time they have a UN resolution of some sort.

  23. MikeN says:

    Glenn E,
    so you think NCIS is horrible in the ratings, yet CBS decided to make another one called NCIS LA?

    This is logical to you? Or I suppose you think the government made them do it?

    I suppose you would prefer CBS made shows like Rendition or Embedded?


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