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Air Force Wants Hundreds of Fake Online Identities 124

bizwriter writes "Bad enough that spammers are creating fake Facebook accounts that acquire connections with unsuspecting people, then inundate them with crap. Now, the US military wants software and services to manage upwards of 500 fake online personas designed to interact with social media, presumably including such sites as Facebook and Twitter."
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Air Force Wants Hundreds of Fake Online Identities

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  • by OeLeWaPpErKe ( 412765 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @07:08AM (#35253002) Homepage

    Exactly, it is. But who doesn't have a fake facebook account ?

    I have 2, for personal use (so that facebook leaves me alone with game "announcements" in my serious mailboxes). Am I alone ? And I'm not even in Sales.

    In my company's sales team most everybody has at least a "commercial" and a private account. That means our company "has" euhm ... a dozen facebook accounts perhaps, something like that. You could call it "astroturfing" probably, because it kinda is. Everybody does it.

    Another storm in a glass of water. Jeuj.

  • by JimMarch(equalccw) ( 710249 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @07:39AM (#35253060)

    There's a recent trend of prosecuting people for "unauthorized use of online systems" when all they did was violate the terms of agreement of Facebook or the like. It's a real stretch to call that "hacking" but they sure tried hard in the 2008 Lori Drew case:

    http://hackaday.com/2008/05/27/violating-terms-of-service-equals-hacking/ [hackaday.com]

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Lori_Drew [wikipedia.org]

    They actually failed in that case:

    http://www.burneylawfirm.com/blog/tag/hacking/ [burneylawfirm.com] ...but it was *federal* prosecutors who argued that the same thing the Air Force wants to do is in fact illegal if private citizens do it. And that wasn't the only such case - two more are discussed on this 2010 page:

    http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/6189-can-terms-of-service-turn-you-into-a-criminal [econsultancy.com]

    On top of all those issues, there might be something else illegal about this, something unique to government actors. Is it constitutional for the state to lie to influence public opinion? Seriously, are we a "democracy" (yeah, I know, technically a Constitutional Republic) anymore, if public opinion can be systematically shifted via...well, bullshit? We have "freedom of information" laws - doesn't that at least imply that information coming from government sources not be a total fraud from top to bottom?

    If we let government actors spread BS at will...ummm...we have some really ghastly examples of where that leads. North Korea is probably the worst of the worst possible endgames there but there's a ton of others worldwide.

  • by phntm ( 723283 ) <phan70m@gmBOHRail.com minus physicist> on Saturday February 19, 2011 @07:50AM (#35253098) Homepage Journal

    pilots get shot down and forced to eject over hostile territories, it's a very good idea to provide them with plausible fake identities which include a rich plausible background.
    this can save lives and help our solders buy enough time to get rescued.
    also, if a spook wants to contact, let's say, the nsa or the cia from a hostile territory, i doubt he'll go over the phone.
    plus in many places encryption is a sign of wrongdoing, so using facebook and even slashdot commentary might be a good way to communicate home.
    dear mods, next time you see a troll, it's just might be a coded message from a secret agent.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 19, 2011 @08:08AM (#35253130)

    A fair number of people (I even know a bunch, rather than just reading about it) have their accounts locked by Facebook HQ for not being "real persons". Private citizens then need to jump through hoops in order to get their accounts back.

    The US govt on the other hand will just specially deliver a National Security Letter or two (or a lot more). Facebook will have to secretly keep the secret personas unlocked for secret reasons and secret govt officials.

    The only way we'll piece together propaganda is to wait for HBGary style attacks on social media sites so we see the internals ticking over. No way, considering how many real people out there are nuts likely to spout the same messages, is there going to be a way of picking up subtle keyword dropping.

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @08:23AM (#35253168)

    Presumably a law upholding (ahem) organisation like the US government and its agencies will want to abide with agreements that they enter in to ???

    Why can they just lie and expect to get away with it. So does that imply that I can lie on my tax form and also expect to get away with it ? I am sorry: this is not acceptable. Governments seem to regard the law and good morals as something that others need to obey, not themselves. What about the individuals who manage these fake accounts, if I ordered an employee of mine to lie they would be liable to prosecution just as I would be; why should government employees be any different ?

    What makes you think that there has to be one and only one user agreement? It's just the basic agreement that they offer everyone, there is nothing preventing the government from going to Facebook and asking:

    "Hey, we want to use your service, but we don't care for the current contract. Here is what we would like: Strike lines 1383 and 273, add these lines...."

    For example, you come over to my house and I ask you to take off your shoes. You do so, but when you get in you see that Bob is still wearing his shoes. I respond that I let Bob wear his shoes because he asked if he could, and I said yes. You ask and I say no.

    A company doesn't have to offer one 'user agreement to bind them all' and only one. Facebook could have thousands (and probably does) for different jurisdictions, groups, etc.

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @08:27AM (#35253178)

    Uh, hacking is illegal too. Do you really think the government gives 2 shits about this? You can go to your Navy recruiter tomorrow and sign up to be a CTN and you will be hacking networks in no time. Military trumps face-book eula, come on man you can't be serious. I'm pretty sure you can't order an employee to carry a rifle either, they can.

    Err, well you have to understand that it IS illegal for the government to do illegal things. The government just has the advantage that it can make exceptions for itself in many situations because the government decides what IS and ISN'T illegal.

    I'm pretty sure I CAN order an employee to carry a rifle as well. Especially if I hired someone to manage my ranch. Do you think if you ran a restaurant you couldn't demand that your chef use knives?

  • by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @08:46AM (#35253224)

    If you think that a "spook" would contact someone over facebook, again wrong (unsecured, no encryption/tunneling, c'mon man).

    IndustrialComplex thinks that the weather was nice yesterday, he wishes it could stay like this for the entire weekend.

    Decrypt that message. Find the suspicious behavior in that message. Do you know how many datapoints could be in that message?

    The number one rule of any sort of clandestine activity is to be in the bell curve. Be that 50% person. You aren't James Bond, you are Mike Smith. You drive a reasonable vehicle. Maybe a Sonata.

  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Saturday February 19, 2011 @10:39PM (#35257310) Homepage Journal

    Exactly, it is. But who doesn't have a fake facebook account ?

    Actually, the usage being described (separate "serious" and "game" account names) is an old tradition. With actors, they're called "stage names"; with writers they're called "pen names", etc. It's also common in English-speaking and some other societies for married women with professional careers to use their "maiden name" professionally and their married name socially.

    These are all recognized by law in most countries as legitimate cases of multiple public identities. The reason is the same: People everywhere tend to pigeonhole you by your name. So if you want to have several independent roles, you need several names.

    This is especially common for writers and actors, for well-known reasons. If you make a name for yourself as a comedian or comedy writer, your serious efforts won't be taken seriously. The only solution is to do them under a different name. This is why, for instance, the mathematician Charles Dodgson published his childrens' stories under the name Lewis Carroll. If he'd published them as written by Charles Dodgson, nobody would have taken his mathematical or other writing seriously.

    An example that a lot of people here may appreciate: Many of the well-known science-fiction authors are pen names. The reason is that if you become a successful sci-fi writer, publishers will refuse to publish anything else you write. Once your name is associated with sci-fi, it discredits everything else you write. But this isn't just a sci-fi problem; it applies to nearly every writer who wants to publish in two or more different categories.

    For actors, type-casting is a well-known phenomenon. They also have the problem of being celebrities, meaning constant harassment by fans, paparazzi, etc. Using stage names is a very sensible solution to these problems.

    It shouldn't be surprising that people would learn the same lesson online, and create multiple identities for different topics that they're interested in. The same pigeonholing has developed very strongly online, and all the old reasons for multiple identities applies here. It's encouraged by the way that so many web sites have rules for acceptable names. I prefer the id "jc", but that was already taken here, so I added two digits that would be meaningful to most /. readers. Other forums forbid 2-char names entirely, so I'm forced to add characters for them. This is a somewhat silly way to get multiple online identities, but web-site culture doesn't allow me to have a single online identity. So I shrug, and keep a list of them, indexed by domain name.

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