New discoveries reveal that the US military is programming software that will clandestinely influence social media sites by using bogus online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda. Sounds a little radical and far-fetched doesn’t it? Keep reading.
A Californian business known as Ntrepid has been bestowed a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to advance what is described as "online persona management service" that will allow one user to control the identity of 10 individuals on the net – 10 non-existent individuals that is.
False online personalities are known to users of social media and Wikis as "sock puppets".
The Centcom agreement requires that each false online persona must have an undoubted background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their computer terminals "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".
There is the concern that the use of such botting software will allow the US military to create a false consensus online and suppress criticisms against the country.
Centcom spokesman Bill Speaks has responded to the criticism that: "The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."
He said none of the interventions would be in English, as it would be dishonest to "address US audiences" with such technology. Right.
Most countries deem the use of such technology and methods as a crime of “impersonation”. Ntrepid have allegedly been awarded around $3 million USD for the project.