NPR reports on two separate stories from the Guardian (original links below)
In an original story by NPR titled: “Report: U.S. Creates Fake Online Identities To Counter ‘Enemy Propaganda'”, they relate that the U.S. Military hired a California company to create software that allows one person to control up to 10 different and sophisticated fake online personas.
The Guardian reported today that United States Central Command (Centcom) doesn’t plan to use the program domestically. Instead, the paper reports quoting Bill Speaks, Centcom spokesman, the military wants to use it in the Middle East and Asia to “counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”
The Guardian adds:
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 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”.
In a separate piece at the Guardian, Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, called the whole scheme “appallingly stupid.” He adds:
“The net result of that will be the diminution, not the enhancement, of American credibility.
“But the effort is amusing as well, for there is absolutely no need to spend millions of dollars to create fake identities online.”
So What’s the Point?
As social media increasingly becomes a way of instant/immediate communication and source of news, the US (military) is working to stay ahead of the game. Creating fake identities can help build a mass of social weight to bear against any online opposition and work to sway opinion and dissension by its perceived popularity or population. It can also serve to drown out and bury by it’s weight of numbers oppositional voices or create an illusion of support through those same false identities. (more to come)
Original article source links
- Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
- America’s absurd stab at systematising sock puppetry
- Report: U.S. Creates Fake Online Identities To Counter ‘Enemy Propaganda’