U.S. Government Musters Squads of Propaganda Comment Trolls

U.S. Government Writes Software to Enable Squads of Propaganda Comment Trolls

By Patrick Morgan
Discover | March 18, 2011

It sounds like the deranged words of a conspiracy theorist: The U.S. military is (not so) secretly creating software that’ll generate phony online personae in order to subtly influence social media conversations and spread propaganda. But what may sound like wacky theory is actually wacky reality, or at least will soon be, depending on whether it’s already in the works.

Dubbed the “online persona management service,” this technology would enable a single soldier to assume upwards of 10 different identities. As United States Central Command Commander Bill Speaks told The Guardian, “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”

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 messages, blogposts, 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. [The Guardian]

Said to be part of the Operation Earnest Voice (OEV) program, a psychological warfare weapon first used in Iraq to counter al-Qaida’s online followers, the goal of this latest project is twofold: To argue against extremist propaganda and to make sure “the world according to the U.S.” is heard. As General James Mattis told a Senate committee: “OEV seeks to disrupt recruitment and training of suicide bombers; deny safe havens for our adversaries; and counter extremist ideology and propaganda.” He added that Centcom was working with “our coalition partners” to develop new techniques and tactics the US could use “to counter the adversary in the cyber domain”. Some have compared these government sock puppets to China’s own online controlling ways, though that’s probably an exaggeration (you can’t even easily view Facebook in China). Others may argue that what the government is doing is necessary, pointing out that none of the undercover personae would be writing in English (they’d be in Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, and Pashto) and wouldn’t interact with U.S. audiences (at least in theory). And to top it off, they’ve ruled out using Facebook and Twitter. The main reason why the government couldn’t troll against American citizens is because, well, it’s illegal. For example, as The Guardian notes, “Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being  convicted of “criminal impersonation” and identity theft.

So we probably don’t have to worry about the government trolling us, though it does raise some questions: What happens, for example, if a Farsi-, Arabic-, Urdu-, or Pashto-speaking American citizen uses the internet? The questions are many, but for now, we’re still in the dark: The military is still allegedly developing the project—but if there are some comments below in Pashto, all bets are off.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2011/03/18/u-s-government-writes-software-to-enable-squads-of-propaganda-comment-trolls/

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  • ipsofacto

    So just how is this different than any of the news media we are enTranced with today?

  • Rabbit

    This has already bene going on to a large extent using individuals. They are easy to spot. However they don’t need to be sophisticated to convince the sheeple.

  • Chuck

    Great. I want it. Where can I buy it?

  • Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions.
    Jct: Do you really think they don’t already have it? have had it for years? Do you think the lunatics we meet online are for real?

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  • Mike Franklin

    Evidence suggests that this kind of op is already underway, at least domestically. There may also be a full scale effort already almost a decade old in the form of the website, ATS or Above Top Secret. It seems that there has been a corner turned at this once benevolent haven for the conspiracy theorist.

    Indeed, it may well have been created by the spooks to act like a flame to the moth, drawing in all those who distrust government and official stories. What a better way to track those who are the most vocal dissidents than creating a webspace that they cannot resist?

    Sadly, we are at a point where trusting anyone at all, is a risk. Sadder still is that our own government is fomenting this distrust by its actions.

  • John Q Botman

    Government is good, they are very benevolent masters. It is useless to resist, you will be assimilated.

  • GOBVARMINT

    government is incapable of telling the monstrous truth. it’s a giant dick up every ass, a death monger paid for by your tax dollars. it’s tyranny. it’s mass murder. and it’s WRONG.

  • STI18

    Oh please, everyone knows this is to sway public opinion here in the US. Duh.. They have been doing this for years now. That is where the word “shill” came from.

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  • jc

    Ok so now they will not only use actual people to troll truth sites. Whichever ones people frequently visit and youtube. They will just use bots, they probably already are but it’s out now.

  • NadePaulKuciGravMcKi

    the world is about to learn EVERY part of 9-11 is a lie

  • W0X0F

    The DHS already does this domestically in English. They are easy to spot however.

  • Brian

    Always assume the government is lying, because in most cases they are lying.