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US Military Commissions Sock Puppet Program 217

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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  • by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Friday March 18, 2011 @08:57AM (#35528530) Journal

    I shared this story a few weeks ago on my Facebook page. Here were some of the responses from "typical" americans:

    - "I'm sure there's more to this story than you are hearing. My friend is a soldier and he's a good person, as are his commanders."

    - "You are too nuts for me. The government can be trusted."

    - "I'm okay with this. Government needs to be able to root-out the terrorists inside our country."

    And so on.
    I am saddened.

  • 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 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.

  • by aaaaaaargh! ( 1150173 ) on Friday March 18, 2011 @09:44AM (#35529014)

    Are you sure you have an idea what the term "propaganda" means? For a start, it doesn't imply any commitment to truth...

    There is nothing to object to propaganda that is clearly marked as such (see above comments about "Voice of America"), but if it comes in disguise then it is, of course, dishonorable.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 18, 2011 @11:08AM (#35530018)

    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 power.

    Let's put it this way. Imagine a government strictly limited in power and revenue (like the US government was supposed to be). A government that simply can't afford to spend money on pork like this -- what's in that for the career politician? What's in that for the elite who benefit personally from big, unaccountable government? Nothing at all.

    But now imagine a government that has their hands in every aspect of life, costs trillions of dollars per year, and has so much money passing through it that it's literally impossible to account for it all -- now THAT is a government fit for crooks.

    Finally, although government is run like a business in just about every aspect, there is one important distinction: government has the special right to employ coercion (meaning physical force) as their business model. Hence there is no penalty for failure -- in fact, failure in government is typically rewarded with yet even more revenue. For the career politician, can this possibly get any better?

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982