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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.
General David Petraeus has said US efforts to spy on social media are aimed at ‘countering extremist ideology and propaganda’. (Cliff Owen/AP) 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”.
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.
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.
- Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media (3quarksdaily.com)
- Military Launches Spy Operation Using Fake Online Identities (huffingtonpost.com)
- US military creates fake online personas (telegraph.co.uk)
- Fake IDs: Can we trust the social media battlefield? (ctv.ca)
- Pentagon buys social networking ‘spy software’ (telegraph.co.uk)
- US Spy program to be used in Facebook, Twitter and other social media (dominicatimes.wordpress.com)
- The US Military Is Planning On Manipulating Public Opinion Through Secret Facebook Software (businessinsider.com)