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Author Topic: Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media  (Read 1197 times)
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salaampeaceshalom
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« on: Mar 17, 2011 03:58 PM »


I'm sure someone once voiced this on here that they believed this was already happening...

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-networks


Exclusive: 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 using fake online personas designed to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with the US Central Command (Centcom) to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities at once.

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

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet.

Centcom's contract requires the provision of one "virtual private server" in the United States and eight appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world. It calls for "traffic mixing", blending the persona controllers' internet usage with the usage of people outside Centcom in a manner that must offer "excellent cover and powerful deniability".

Once developed the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with a host of co-ordinated 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 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 was 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.

The multiple persona contract is thought to have been awarded as part of a programme called Operation Earnest Voice (OEV), which was first developed in Iraq as a psychological warfare weapon against the online presence of al-Qaida supporters and others ranged against coalition forces. Since then OEV is reported to have expanded into a $200m programme and is thought to have been used against jihadists across Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Middle East.

OEV is seen by senior US commanders as a vital counter-terrorism and counter-radicalisation 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".

This month Petraeus's successor, General James Mattis, told the same committee that OEV "supports all activities associated with degrading the enemy narrative, including web engagement and web-based product distribution capabilities".

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

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.

Centcom confirmed that the $2.76m contract was awarded to Ntrepid, a newly formed corporation registered in Los Angeles. It would not disclose whether the multiple persona project is in operation or discuss any related contracts.

Nobody was available for comment at Ntrepid.

In his evidence to the Senate committee, Gen Mattis said: "OEV seeks to disrupt recruitment and training of suicide bombers; deny safe havens for our adversaries; and counter extremist ideology and propaganda." Centcom was working with "our coalition partners" to develop new techniques and tactics that the US could use "to counter the adversary in the cyber domain".

According to a report by the inspector general of the US defence department in Iraq,, OEV was managed by the multinational forces rather than Centcom.

Asked whether any UK military personnel had been involved in OEV, Britain's Ministry of Defence said it could find "no evidence". The MoD refused to say whether it had been involved in the development of persona management programmes, however, saying: "We don't comment on cyber capability."

OEV was discussed last year at a gathering of electronic warfare specialists in Washington DC, where a senior Centcom officer told delegates that its purpose was to "communicate critical messages and to counter the propaganda of our adversaries".

Persona management by the US military would face legal challenges if it were turned against citizens of the US, where a number of people engaged in sock puppetry have faced prosecution.

Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being convicted of "criminal impersonation" and identity theft.

It is unclear whether a persona management programme would contravene UK law. Legal experts say it could fall foul of the Forgery and Counterfeiting Act 1981, which states that "a person is guilty of forgery if he makes a false instrument, with the intention that he or another shall use it to induce somebody to accept it as genuine, and by reason of so accepting it to do or not to do some act to his own or any other person's prejudice". However, this would apply only if a website or social network could be shown to have suffered "prejudice" as a result.

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« Reply #1 on: Mar 18, 2011 05:44 PM »

That's really scary. But not surprising. We already found out that Israelis do this, maybe part of their required military service if I remember that article. And also that the FBI was doing this by creating ids and posting around the web ostensibly to create a "moderate muslim view' but interesting also posting alot of fake jihadist stuff to entrapping muslims. And even weirder still are the major Islamophobes self-jihadist catchers who claim to be going around trying to entrap crazies as well. So errr I always have to wonder is anyone real on here??!
 
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« Reply #2 on: Mar 18, 2011 07:38 PM »

Yeah, agree with Sis Jannah - scary but not surprising. Can't remember where exactly but we had a discussion where it was stated/assumed that what we write on the net is monitored - I think Sis J mentioned that that was a forgone conclusion with the Patriot Act, so this isn't really a surprise, but just crazy what is going on these days.

That's kinda funny Sis J - that some of us might not be 'real' for ya - maybe we should all make videos or something for you to confirm that we are real and not just some spy/govt official  Smiley

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« Reply #3 on: Mar 18, 2011 09:25 PM »

Haha you know there's a joke in Syria that 1 out of every 2 people is a gov't spy, so if it's not you, it must be me!!! lol Yeah unfortunately internet lulls us into thinking it's completely private and no one else can see it. But it's just as public as anything else. The case in DC bothers me because the kid was befriended by someone on facebook and then the "friend" did ALOT of work to try to brainwash him and have him make statements about certain things. The kid didn't even leave his living room, but by doing this they were totally able to prosecute him. Also, so many stories about young girls being "friended" by who they think is young hot guys who turn out to be pedophiles and rapists. It's a scary world out there, and worse is parents don't monitor their kids internet use! You guys need to have your kids passwords to everything until they're like 18. Ok thank you come again Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: Mar 18, 2011 11:08 PM »

Hey there Sis J - Yeah, that case in DC - my cousin who is studying in the area (originally from India), if I recall correctly, had him as a friend on Facebook and was worried the storm might come his way - so he was freaking out a bit . . .as for the future and our kids - yeah, that freaks me out, I mean things are getting so crazy, I just imagine what things will be into effect by then.

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PS. Thanks for the rep, I think, Sis J? :-) *BABA is a nerd*

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« Reply #5 on: Mar 19, 2011 07:04 AM »

Asalaamu Alaikum bro

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So errr I always have to wonder is anyone real on here??!
 
Oh great, so if asking if someone is religious wasn't hard enough we now  have to ask if they are even real!! Wink

But on serious note, the internet is a public forum so one's behaviour should really reflect that fact.

It does make you wonder what the CIA or FBI will come up with next though?

Recruitment of toddlers to infiltrate innocent school parties? Be on the watch out Sr tq!! bro

Say: "O ye my servants who believe! Fear your Lord, good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is God's earth! those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!" [39:10]
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