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NSA and GHCQ Employing Shills To Poison Web Forum Discourse 347

Advocatus Diaboli writes with this excerpt from an article by Glenn Greenwald on the pervasiveness of shills poisoning web forums: "One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It's time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.. ... Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the Internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: 'false flag operations' (posting material to the Internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting 'negative information' on various forums." I guess Cryptome was right. Check out the the training materials provided to future forum spies.
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NSA and GHCQ Employing Shills To Poison Web Forum Discourse

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  • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sique ( 173459 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @09:16AM (#46332937) Homepage
    If you ask that yourself, the tactics have succeeded halfway already -- seeding mistrust has worked.

    So you should look at the message itself, not at the person you get the message from. If the message contains further tainting of a messenger, it will seed more mistrust. Try to focus on arguments of fact, not arguments of person or source. Then you will weed out most deception.

  • Re:No they are not (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @09:19AM (#46332967)

    Hello, shill. What's your salary?

  • by cgfsd ( 1238866 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @09:20AM (#46332969)
    Governments have been doing this for a very long time, the only difference now is the media in which it is delivered.
    Previously it was the newspaper and radio, now it is the Internet. Playbook stayed the same.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @09:22AM (#46332981)

    Huh I had a feeling that Snowden bashers were shills fed talking points, their syntax and language was too uniform. Guess my shill suspision may have been right. Now if only there was a good way to counter them, short of being an insider.

  • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nucrash ( 549705 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @09:33AM (#46333049)

    The problem with this is that mistrust has already been seeded for one party and once that occurs, full blown paranoia is only a couple of steps away. We already have a culture of anti-government rhetoric building. While many are chaotic, and completely lacking organization, there might be enough just to start trouble across the board. In short, they will probably end up reaping what they sew.

  • Re: I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @09:37AM (#46333087)
    A better question might be, "How could this possibly be furthering out national security interests?", and if it isn't, "Why the hell are they wasting my money on programs designed to further their own egomaniacal agenda?".

    I mean, isn't this self-serving and public-harming behavior exactly what got them in to hot water in the first place?

    Frankly, if they still don't get that abusing the hand that feeds them tax dollars isn't in America's best interest, then they don't deserve to be an organization. Let the CIA and FBI pick up their responsibilities and disolve the NSA altogether. They are a waste of money, a waste of manpower, and are wasting our liberties.
  • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @09:38AM (#46333095)

    If the posts name starts with 'c' and ends with "fjord" is going to be a shill post.

  • Re:The slides... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by king neckbeard ( 1801738 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @09:58AM (#46333305)
    Poor quality graphics. Ridiculously complex infographics. Irrelevant pictures. Overuse of mantras. Incredible lack of consistency. A powerpoint presentation this bad has to be from a government or a large corporation.
  • Re:The slides... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @10:01AM (#46333341) Homepage Journal

    At one point or another, you have to believe someone. Greenwald & Snowden are, to me at least, a lot more credible than anything the NSA and GCHQ may say or do.

    Fact: we know Snowden worked for NSA. The NSA has admitted as much.

    Fact: we know Snowden has left NSA with a cache of several thousands of classified NSA/GCHQ documents. The NSA has admitted as much.

    Fact: we know Snowden has communicated most of these classified documents to Glenn Greenwald and associates. They have both said so many times.

    The fact that the presentation is amateurish does not diminish its value or disproves its origins - after all, GCHQ boffins are not required to take PowerPoint courses... or are they? (We won't know either way - don't bother replying to that question).

    Reasoning just five minutes shows that the quality of the presentation or the smartness of its content is irrelevant to the information it imparts to us: that we are under surveillance, and subjected to relentless secret "psy-ops". That information alone is chilling.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @10:02AM (#46333345) Homepage
    At best federal agencies hope to sway public opinion. they dont want you to do what they tell you, but rather to want to do what they tell you. the government predicates their position upon the conviction that online forums are no different than a public forum, which could not be further from the truth. Tea Party 'town halls' are a prime example of the FUD and disinformation tactic being used to disrupt a political group in power. Its a functional effort to turn civil discourse into a cattle car by injecting audience that stand, scream, and then immediately sit or defend pointless illogical opinions to run down the clock.

    the internet interperets ignorance, malice, and poorly defined opinions and conjecture as spam, and has for 15 years honed tools and systems in online forums to ensure. the 50 clandestine posters in a free software forum defending SOPA or PIPA will, nearly instantaneously, be downvoted to oblivion in a system which is very much designed to keep the topic of discussion of relevance. systems like karma and abuse tracking dont exist in meatspace forums, but these are tools which members can use to shut down abusers or track malicious participants who abuse the tools as well. and finally its worth nothing to poison one forum when in its place dissuaded or frustrated posters can erect 10 more. mobility is a moot concern on the internet; a luxury meatspace forums just dont have.
  • by korbulon ( 2792438 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @10:23AM (#46333563)
    And I see you're more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Not sure what's worse, a shill, or an amateur apologist. At least I can somewhat comprehend the motives of a shill. The apologist, not so much.
  • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by guises ( 2423402 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @10:27AM (#46333625)

    We already have a culture of anti-government rhetoric building. While many are chaotic, and completely lacking organization, there might be enough just to start trouble across the board. In short, they will probably end up reaping what they sew.

    You're not wrong about the culture of anti-government rhetoric, but your last comment, about reaping what they sew, is off the mark and makes me sad. Our "culture of anti-government rhetoric" has been sculpted to treat the government as a monolithic entity. Government is government. Thus, a story about an invasion of privacy or one like this, about perverting speech, can be turned into an attack on the EPA or health care reform or an argument against the regulation of financial markets. The government can't be trusted, after all.

    Even worse, that paranoid atmosphere is exactly what drives legislation like the Patriot Act in the first place. People want to feel safe, it's self-propagating.

    If you really want to stop this sort of abuse, what you need to foster in your self and in others is not paranoia, or mistrust, but confidence. Keep your outrage, that's certainly appropriate, but recognize this as a problem that can be fixed and move towards that solution.

  • Re: I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @10:39AM (#46333741) Homepage

    How is it in America's best interest? Because the people in charge actually think like this:

    1) There are threats to us everywhere and we are the only ones protecting against them.

    2) To effectively protect America (as per #1), we need power. Lots and lots of power.

    3) Anything that reduces our power (e.g. Edward Snowden) threatens us and therefore impacts our ability to protect America.

    4) Therefore, anything that reduces our power (or threatens to do so) is a threat to America and needs to be dealt with.

    5) Go To Step 2.

    It's an infinite loop. The more power they have, the more "potential threats" they see (real or imagined in an attempt to justify their power), and the more they see any reduction of their power as something that will cause horrible things to happen.

  • Re: I wonder (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @10:50AM (#46333865) Homepage

    I agree, although I also think there is a strong element of "not on my watch" covering of the ass. No one in the West wants to be held responsible for the next 9/11, so gathering *all* the information on everyone seems a prudent exercise to prevent being blamed because *you* didn't do something to prevent it, no matter how flagrant a breach of the public trust, laws, etc.

  • Re:I wonder (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kielistic ( 1273232 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @11:03AM (#46334011)

    You get modded down because you use misleading information and outright lies to push your painfully obvious agenda. Everybody that reads Slashdot with any kind of frequency came into this article knowing full well you would be here spin-spin-spinning.

    If ever there is any support given to one of the United States' "enemies" or anything bad said about the NSA you are on that like white on rice. You set off everybody's bullshit detector because you make defending the party-line your Slashdot persona.

  • Re:Venezuela (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:38PM (#46335225)

    Right now the social networks are flooded with alleged "discoveries of fraud", according to which the opposition is spreading pictures from protests elsewhere as being from Venezuela right now. It's interesting that the original photos are very easy to find in the internet, but the ones supposedly shared by the venezuelan opposition are nowhere. Either the venezuelan opposition is dumb enough to get pictures that are widely available and spread them as their own or there's some seeding taking place in hopes that the opposition will get framed by spreading a false pic that was given to them by someone else.

    The powers that be really do not want anyone in the US thinking that what is going on in Venezuela is at all okay. I don't know if it's the socialist angle, but all we hear are bad things about Venezuela. We hear about how horrible their living conditions are and how corrupt their government is. Hugo Chavez was constantly demonized in the media. We even tried to overthrow him back in the early 2000's.

    The US has a long history of disrupting successful socialism in South America. I figure that's what's going on here as well. Our government doesn't want anyone getting the idea that socialism could work to raise up a people. Capitalism has to be seen as the only way; in order to prop up the fabulously profitable system the oligarchs have constructed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:41PM (#46335271)

    Standard herd psychology instructs us that you only need to control a relatively small percentage of the perceived crowd support in order to sway the behavior of the whole herd.

    You can see this in effect here. When AGW comes up, the tone of the discussion tends to swing either one way or the other after a brief period at the start where it is determined which camp will dominate. After that point, people with opposing views will more often stay quiet for fear of being mobbed by group consensus, and those in the majority feel confident in mobbing.

    Take a look at the whole Slashdot Beta outcry. When more than half the posts were complaining about Beta, the Slashdot lords actually responded.

    But these are just pocket instances. In the context of the whole internet and society at large, a highly consolidated stance in one forum will be counterbalanced by the opposite view in another.

    Cohesive group consensus across the whole of a large population becomes very unlikely, and the decision makers can simply follow their agendas without worrying about large blocks of public opinion forming which might actually result in real pressure to stop them.

    Mobs need to feel like a mob to act like a mob. When you keep a herd factional through the injection of artificial objections, the mob never coalesces into something which gets out of control.

    There are whole disinfo thrusts designed just to promote stupid, argumentative view points in order to confuse any given issue. Confusion prevents herds from stampeding.

    Then, when the leadership really wants something to happen, (like a war), the media kicks into overdrive to create the impression of a cohesive message and the confused cattle follow because their own ability to decide amongst themselves has been so exhausted and the need to move in SOME direction due to a high state of anxiety is overwhelming. -And that state of high anxiety is maintained through a variety of controlled pressures.

    The system works really well, as we have seen. The oligarchs haven't been stymied at all in their activities. They got all the wars they wanted and maintain control to this day.

  • by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Tuesday February 25, 2014 @12:59PM (#46335551)
    Honestly, why bother with even that. Manning, Assange, Snowden... the character assassinations have been redundant with national attention span. Someone exposes some wrongdoing you did? Instead of shooting them or saying mean things about them, just wait. Wait... wait... aaand everyone has forgotten what they said on their own.

    I feel like the character assassinations, legal attempts, and perhaps actual murder attempts are absurd symptoms of the people at the NSA et al genuinely thinking of themselves as the good guys and everyone who isn't with them as bad guys. The spooks seem to be drinking their own koolaid. I'm not sure if that's more terrifying than an efficient, cold-blooded, impassionate government conspiracy or not.

The best book on programming for the layman is "Alice in Wonderland"; but that's because it's the best book on anything for the layman.