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US Military Commissions Sock Puppet Program 217

Posted by timothy
from the and-I'm-learning-chinese-says-werner-von-braun dept.
chrb writes "The Guardian and The Telegraph are reporting that US based Ntrepid Corporation has been awarded a $2.76 million contract to develop software aimed at manipulating social media. The project aims to enable military personnel to control multiple 'sock puppets' located at a range of geographically diverse IP addresses, with the aim of spreading pro-US propaganda. The project will not target English speaking web sites (yet) but will be limited to foreign languages, including Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto. The project will be funded as part of the $200 million Operation Earnest Voice program run by US Central Command."
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US Military Commissions Sock Puppet Program

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  • Oh, wait... that didn't come out right.

    • by cappp (1822388)
      Personally I think it's a fantastic idea, clearly indicative of a government that loves and cares for its people.

      Cappp...translate this into Farsi when you get a chance please.
      • by FatSean (18753) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:34AM (#35528368) Homepage Journal

        Pro-USA propaganda is already planted in Iraqi news papers, this is a logical step. It's also despicable. Especially when the same government denounces these tactics when used by "the enemy".

        Not with my taxes, please. Dishonourable shits.

        • by August_zero (654282) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:45AM (#35528428)
          As distasteful as it is, this is hardly a new thing. Pretty much everyone in history has done this to some degree. The only real "news" is that a new mechanism is going into place, but the machinery has been there all along.
          • This is true. You can look back in the old testament and find propaganda about Israel's enemies and the terrible things they apparently did, though there is no archaeological evidence to back the claims. Same for some of the ancient egyptian inscriptions. This is just adding a new level of sophistication.
            • by FatSean (18753)

              The Bible does record the genocide of the Canaanites at the hand of the diety-led ancient Hebrews. I believe the people of Ai also got wiped out.

              • Sure. Any complete work of propaganda needs its glory moments. Importantly, though, the causes of those genocides can't be recalled exactly, they've been whitewashed into glory—heck, the parties listed may not even be responsible.
              • by mdm42 (244204)
                "The diety-led Hebrews" - does this mean that Abraham was a really skinny guy? Or just that he had some books to sell "Smash Idols to Lose 60 Mina in 30 Days"?
          • by kilfarsnar (561956) on Friday March 18, 2011 @09:33AM (#35528914)

            As distasteful as it is, this is hardly a new thing. Pretty much everyone in history has done this to some degree. The only real "news" is that a new mechanism is going into place, but the machinery has been there all along.

            I agree. And yet, when I say that the US population is massively propagandized by its government, I get called a conspiracy theorist. I know the program in question is aimed at only foreigners, but we know how that can go don't we? I once heard that the difference between Soviet and American propaganda was that the Soviet people recognized it for what it was; the Americans, not so much.

            • Well, I'd say it would have been a good idea....if they could have kept it fscking SECRET....

              Now..wouldn't any pro-USA comments on any ME message board or whatever now be suspected of being a sockpuppet?

              I guess we now have a new meme: On the internet...

              All the men are men

              All the women are men

              All the kids are FBI agents

              And...all the pro-USA guys in foreign forums are CIA agents.

              • Knowing it exists, will not tell you what is and isn't tainted with propaganda. For this reason, I don't think they are going to lose all that much sleep over the big secret getting out.

                Embarrassing? Well maybe a little, but remember this is the same nation that had a pretty damning video of a helicopter attack on civilian targets go public, and there was disturbingly little backlash from the public all things considered.

                • by RockoTDF (1042780)
                  There wasn't much backlash because the public didn't see what was wrong. If you watch the videos, you can see why they fired when they did. Had they turned out to all be insurgents no one would have given a shit (although shooting missiles at a building when a dude was walking along outside was questionable for sure). On the other hand, if they had destroyed the local market because a guy with an RPG ran into it, you may have had a bit of outrage on your hand. One could argue that "Collateral Murder" wa
              • by HBPiper (472715)

                No, all the anti-USA guys on foreign forums are CIA agents. Otherwise, how do you attract potential anti-USA suitors?

            • by RockoTDF (1042780)
              There were two major newspapers in the USSR, which were called "The Truth" ("Pravda" - I think this one is still around) and "The News." Russians used to say "There is no truth in the news, and no news in the truth."

              Having said this, propaganda is easy to believe when life is working out for you. When you are dirt poor and only have left shoes because the factory that makes right shoes is broken down, you stop believing the bullshit. In the modern US, people are realizing that the lack of healthcare,
          • by Damek (515688)

            Because people with power commonly do something bad, doesn't make it not bad.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          Not with my taxes, please. Dishonourable shits.

          Yet you're perfectly happy to pay for a newspaper laden with dishonest advertisements and astroturf articles. What gives?

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            You can opt out of the newspaper market, I certainly have. Can't easily opt out of tax paying.

            • Sure you can! Just head to any US embassy in the world and renounce your citizenship. There are lots of people all over the world that don't pay taxes to the US.
        • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:57AM (#35528528) Homepage Journal

          Not with my taxes, please. Dishonourable shits

          Well, people are always saying they want the government "run like a business". Well, friend, "business" has been doing this sockpuppet thing for years. Go look at the web site for "New Media Strategies", the company that provides sock puppets for the Koch Brothers, among others. That's their entire business model - providing sock puppets for businesses.

          • by plover (150551) * on Friday March 18, 2011 @09:50AM (#35529072) Homepage Journal

            The technical term for the whole process run by the rich to sway decision-makers is "astroturfing," because they're creating an artificial grass-roots effort. Sock puppetry is only one tool in their toolbox.

            Nicky Hager's book Secrets and Lies [amazon.com], has terrific detail on how such a campaign is run, documenting the New Zealand timber industry's bought-and-paid-for efforts to run roughshod over the environmentalists in order to log the islands.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Judge by their actions, not their words. Looking at history, the primary goal of government is growth -- expanding their business slowly but surely for the elite few who can exploit it. And it shows. The US government of today absolutely dwarfs the US government of only 50, let alone 100 years ago, both in revenue and power over the people. Every year government spends more, borrows more, and seizes more power over the people -- which will be leveraged as precedent for the next expansion of revenue and/or p

            • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

              Judge by their actions, not their words. Looking at history, the primary goal of government is growth -- expanding their business slowly but surely for the elite few who can exploit it. And it shows. The US government of today absolutely dwarfs the US government of only 50, let alone 100 years ago, both in revenue and power over the people. Every year government spends more, borrows more, and seizes more power over the people -- which will be leveraged as precedent for the next expansion of revenue and/or p

        • by Anonymous Coward

          An American would not spell "dishonorable" the way you did.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by crackspackle (759472)

          Pro-USA propaganda is already planted in Iraqi news papers, this is a logical step. It's also despicable. Especially when the same government denounces these tactics when used by "the enemy".

          Not with my taxes, please. Dishonourable shits.

          Ever heard of Voice of America [wikipedia.org] ? Same thing, different media. These aren't subliminal messages [wikipedia.org], it's propaganda created to directly counter propaganda of those who would seek to continue doing harm in any form, not necessarily just against the United States but also against the interest of humanity - think Gadhaffi for a current example. Having a problem with this is just Naiveté on your part.

          • by Half-pint HAL (718102) on Friday March 18, 2011 @09:33AM (#35528912)
            But Voice of America is a branded product. You tune into VoA and it tells you you're listening to VoA. It's propaganda, but it's a million miles away from sock-puppeting -- sock puppets don't tell you they're sock puppets.
          • by Magada (741361)

            VoA? The CIA-controlled pieces of shit that flooded the airwaves with official support messages for the Prague Spring and the Basra Uprising, only to then decry the resulting slaughters of innocents?

            The same VoA that was infiltrated by the KGB and the GRU, resulting in the death and imprisonment for dissidents who wrote letters to be published there? The VoA that is now illegally broadcast in the US and territories and on the Internet, in direct violation of laws stating that no military propaganda operatio

            • by Jaktar (975138)

              You sound like a sock puppet.

              • by Magada (741361)

                Why, yes, I was impersonating a lapping-dog lackey of the morally corrupt Jihadist mullahs! I congratulate you for your sagacity, citizen! No need to report for voluntary relocation, for now.

          • by FatSean (18753)

            So you're saying that 9/11 was just tit for tat response to the CIA's meddling in Afghanistan?

            Come on man. Your argument sucks.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by OakDragon (885217)
          There is nothing dishonorable at all with the U.S.A. spreading pro-USA propaganda.
        • by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday March 18, 2011 @09:21AM (#35528788) Homepage Journal

          Why is it dishonorable if the stories are true? People do not understand that propaganda does not have to be lies and frankly the best propaganda is the truth.

          • People do not understand that propaganda does not have to be lies and frankly the best propaganda is the truth.

            It's hard to see how undermining social media with thousands of fake personalities can result in a very honest and truthful endeavor...

        • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Friday March 18, 2011 @09:56AM (#35529130)

          Not with my taxes, please. Dishonourable shits.

          Considering you spell dishonorable with a 'u', I assume it actually isn't with your taxes.

    • by plover (150551) *

      I, for one, am one of your new sock puppet overlords.

  • by Errol backfiring (1280012) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:18AM (#35528256) Journal
    Really, calling propaganda "Operation Earnest Voice"? I think a few braincells just exploded.
    • by Magada (741361) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:19AM (#35528270) Journal

      What would you want it to be called? "Operation Naked Truth"?

    • Re:Unbellythinkful (Score:5, Insightful)

      by coinreturn (617535) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:27AM (#35528322)

      Really, calling propaganda "Operation Earnest Voice"? I think a few braincells just exploded.

      Actually, the name is perfect, since the name is also propaganda.

    • by wjousts (1529427)
      I know. Somebody at the state department hasn't heard of irony.
    • by _0xd0ad (1974778)

      Truthful is orthogonal to propaganda.

      http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/propaganda [merriam-webster.com]

      2 : the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person
      3 : ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause; also : a public action having such an effect

      Note that it doesn't say that the propaganda is necessarily lies. Ideas, allegations, and rumors may be either true or false; information and facts specifically imply that they're true (though they may still not show the whole picture, or both sides of the coin).

      Many propagandists in fact believe that what they are saying is the truth. And even if something *is* the truth, it doesn't mean it isn't also propaganda.

  • Secret op? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by danbuter (2019760) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:20AM (#35528278)
    Shouldn't something like this have been kept Secret? Letting everyone know about it kind of defeats the purpose.
    • by Magada (741361)

      The operational secrecy seems un-compromised. It's not like someone provided Jihadi forum admins with a banhammer target list. I AM glad this has been exposed, mind you.

      I happen to live outside the US, you see, so I really do not appreciate the thought that the US military might be taking an active, covert role in my country's political and social dialogue.

      • by EasyTarget (43516)

        "I really do not appreciate the thought that the US military might be taking an active, covert role in my country's political and social dialogue."

        Glad you could join us; Welcome to the world as it has been for the last 50 years..

        • by Magada (741361)

          Direct US influence was not all that extensive in my country for at least 30 of the past 50 years, what with the Iron Curtain and everything.

          • You mean 25 of the last 50 years, right? We are at 2011. Also, I still doubt the US didn't have a big influence behind the Iron Curtain.

            • by Magada (741361)

              I mean what I say. We were deep within Moscow's sphere of influence for a while after 1990. Some neighboring countries and territories still are.

    • I believe the cat was out of the bag a month ago when ArsTechnics was reporting on HBGary [arstechnica.com]?
    • There are lots of secret programs too. One reason they're not all secret is a lot of the people who work on these kinds of projects aren't qualified for high clearances, on account of being recent immigrants.

  • by jeffmeden (135043) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:27AM (#35528314) Homepage Journal

    "The project will be funded as part of the $200 million Operation Earnest Voice program run by US Central Command."

    This word you are using... I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • OK for furriners (Score:2, Insightful)

    by AlecC (512609)

    Another case of the US feeling that it is perfectly acceptable to treat foreigners in a way that would bring outrage if it tried it on its own citizens. Such things started, and were found acceptable: in cases of outright declared war (World Wars, Korea, Vietnam), it is OK to deceive and manipulate enemy civilians. But that has been translated to being OK to do the same to all except strong allies - and it would be a small step to apply it to them. The philosophy has become that war justifies lethal force,

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Another case of the US feeling that it is perfectly acceptable to treat foreigners in a way that would bring outrage if it tried it on its own citizens.

      Waddaya mean, "if it tried it"? There's tons of propaganda from the US government aimed at US citizens, from the most obvious (e.g. White House news briefings) to the not-so-obvious (e.g. describing generals on Pentagon payroll as "independent analysts" who just happen to have a pro-war viewpoint), to the downright illegal (e.g. agents provocateur to start violence in otherwise peaceful protests).

    • You mean the US government thinks it is unaccetable to apply that to their citizens?! That is news to me.

      Also, read a bit of wikileaks if you can. Those you think are chinese's sock-puppets are in fact Saudi Arabia's sock-puppets. (They probably have some other overlords too, but it is not clear yet.)

    • by cdrguru (88047)

      The US has been subjected to this for a very long time. Having a "open" society certainly allows propaganda of all sorts to florish.

      The KGB had long running programs to "introduce the brighter side of the USSR to Americans". Before that, the NKVD has that program.

      I would certainly call anything published by NAMBLA and the Church of Scientology to be "propaganda". Anything at all. Both of these organizations are US-based. And the people that are suckered into believing their message are probably harmed

  • by amanicdroid (1822516) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:48AM (#35528460)
    If you can understand an intended meaning to a US operation or program name then it's public persuasion / propaganda.

    MKUltra: WTF
    Operation Overlord / Neptune: WTF

    Operation Iraqi Freedom: propaganda
  • And the negative mods for this post.
  • And bully for the good old US of A, the bastion of democracy and goodness, for coming up with it!

    I, and all of my attractive, intelligent and clever friends agree with this! You should agree as well!

    • by Chrisq (894406)

      And bully for the good old US of A, the bastion of democracy and goodness, for coming up with it!

      I, and all of my attractive, intelligent and clever friends agree with this! You should agree as well!

      Absolutely. Let us all lay down our arms, convert to Christianity and promise to uphold copyright law.

      • And software patents. Don't forget the software patents.

        On a side note, Obama will is visiting my country today. It's creepy.

    • by Chrisq (894406)
      Yes, I for one am going to lay down my arms, convert to Christianity and uphold copyright law. Lets all do it together.
  • ...you should probably ignore all of those friend requests you are suddenly getting.
  • Is site considered on US soil, or should we start expecting military trolls here soon?
  • The project will not target English language web sites. That is where the beta testing is done.
    • The project will not target English language web sites.

      Well that's me avoiding Lolcatz from now on.

      I haz invadid ur cuntree and set u up da bom!

  • by osgeek (239988) on Friday March 18, 2011 @09:31AM (#35528898) Homepage Journal

    There's $200 million that should come directly out of the defense budget.

    I know that this kind of shit can be done. I know that it could be useful to "win".

    But jesus fraggin' christ... do we have to go there first? Do we have to piss on our own credibility at every turn?

    • $200 million is dirt cheap. If this can prevent, even a very small amount of US military action, it's way more than worth it.

    • by PhxBlue (562201)
      You're assuming we have any credibility with the people of Afghanistan. That's your first mistake.
  • Congress will do its best to put a stop to this...

    as soon as the cheques from Facebook and News Corp clear.

  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Friday March 18, 2011 @09:42AM (#35528980)

    Considering the source, I think it's fair to assume that this news has an anti-military slant.

    Also, could this be considered "counter propaganda?" A lot of people get a lot of misinformation about the USA, often from official sources. There is no way for the US to defend itself in the government controlled media of those countries.

    I like this sort of action a lot better than dropping bombs, or rolling tanks.

  • RFE/RL's mission is to promote democratic values and institutions by reporting the news in countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. Our journalists provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.

    Based on the conviction that the first requirement of democracy is a well informed citizenry, and building on over a half-century of surrogate broadcasting:

    1. RFE/RL provides objective news, analysis, and discussion of d

    • All good but propaganda non the less. The stories are all designed to make the US look good. Although it does provide a more balance reporting of stories into those territories that are not getting the stories because of controlled media. But then this is controlled media too. We should have something like that coming from other countries into our back yard to hold a mirror up to some of what the rest of the world sees that our country is doing at home and abroad.

  • This has been going on for at least a decade. I had a floormate in college that used to get drunk and brag about monitoring chatrooms for a private contractor.

  • The US constituition is founded on the belief that the populace is allowed to bear arms. The government/army has now declared that anonymous accounts are a valuable military asset.

    This would seem to indicate that US second amendment rights should apply to anonymous posting.

    I await the following legal battle especially given the legislative branches move to prohibit anonymous on line presence.

  • This is what we railed against with the godless Communists. Now with the neo-conservatives, they are bringing their business practices into the government and law enforcement realms. Look at Abu Grab, the recent Psy-Op's scandel from Afganistan. etc.

    Actually they could pick up some tips from the law enforment departments that have been trying to trap people online by posing as underaged children that want to go have sex with them. I think we are veering away from some basic core principals that used to ma

  • by Ant P. (974313)

    This is right below a story about Microsoft investing a huge amount of resources to stop spam...

  • It's only people with vested interests pretending to be more people than they are who don't.
  • ...the idiots who thought it was a good idea. The Internet is nothing if not an effective filter for truth. It may take time, and it may not always work perfectly, but in general, bullshit gets tagged as such. It shouldn't take long before the Facebook account of "Uncle Samhed, from Kabul" is identified as a CIA mouthpiece. Every time.
  • Republicans are on a tear to eliminate social programs.

    Lordy, this program is all about social (media) programs. Cut it, cut it, cut it.

    Bachmann, you are a self-described cutter. Cut it. Come on, cut, cut, cut.

    Maybe once we see Glen Beck crying about this on Fox the patriot citizenry will kill this outrageous social program.
    .

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