US Military Kicks Off Plan To Fill Social Networks With Fake Sock Puppet Accounts

from the who-are-your-friends-now? dept

You may recall that one of the things that came out in the big HBGary Federal data dump was that the US government had put out a request (that HBGary was thinking of bidding on) for software that would let the government manage a bunch of social networking profiles at once, in order to create a series of different online personas on different social networks that could all be easily controlled by one person. Well, HBGary Federal didn’t get the account… but someone else did. Apparently a company called Ntrepid has scored the contract and the US military is getting ready to roll out these “sock puppet” online personas. Of course, it insists that all of this is targeting foreign individuals, not anyone in the US. And they promise it’s not even going to be used on US-based social networks like Facebook or Twitter, but does anyone actually believe that’s true? As for HBGary Federal, losing out on this contract may be the least of its problems. Congress is now investigating any contracts the government currently has with HBGary, along with partners-in-planning, Palantir and Berico.

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Comments on “US Military Kicks Off Plan To Fill Social Networks With Fake Sock Puppet Accounts”

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45 Comments
surfer (profile) says:

if you can't control them join them and control them.

This is the new dis-information game. Similiar to the astroturf campaigning the Koch Brothers are doing in Wisconsin. Hiding their agenda behind corporate legalese to impersonate a true ‘citizens” group in the effort to bullsh*t them into believing that ‘giving up basic freedoms makes you safer’. Which in fact, is quite the opposite. Unfortunately, I am web adept, and I can see right thru these facades with ease, belligerently I assume everyone can.

nimbus says:

Re: Nothing wrong with meeting the people!

The recruiter or friendly neighborhood police officer is wearing a uniform and a name badge. You know what they represent and if they attempt to gain personal information from you, you have the opportunity to make a responsible and knowledgeable decision about whether that’s appropriate behavior.

See FBI sting operations where FBI members help someone attempt to commit an act of terrorism they would otherwise not be capable of committing, or inclined to commit: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/30/us/politics/30fbi.html

chris (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The US military won’t target Americans. It would be illegal to do so… no matter how cynical you are, Mike, the US military is only mandated to conduct operations outside US borders. Same with the CIA and NSA.

ORLY?
https://www.eff.org/issues/nsa-spying

The evidence also shows that the government did not act alone. EFF has obtained whistleblower evidence [PDF] from former AT&T technician Mark Klein showing that AT&T is cooperating with the illegal surveillance. The undisputed documents show that AT&T installed a fiberoptic splitter at its facility at 611 Folsom Street in San Francisco that makes copies of all emails, web browsing, and other Internet traffic to and from AT&T customers, and provides those copies to the NSA. This copying includes both domestic and international Internet activities of AT&T customers. As one expert observed, ?this isn?t a wiretap, it?s a country-tap.

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

And the CIA comment was even sillier. See:

1. Project MK-ULTRA – Testing of illicit narcotics on US Citizens, at timew w/o their knowledge

2. Operation Mockingbird – Covertly putting anticommunist messages into the US news media (appropos in this case)

3. OSINT – Forerunner to the NSA’s Echelon SIG/INT program, collected and analyzed communications data from public sources within the United States

4. Nat’l Student Association: CIA payed college students and staff to spy on dissident groups on campuses across the country

5. The Robertson Panel: CIA investigated UFO reports in the DC area and elsewhere

6. Some CIA programs in the 70’s involved intercepting domestic communiques of US citizens. They were discontinued in 1975 as illegal w/o warrants, but restarted under G.W. Bush. See Project Shamrock and Project Minaret as examples. HTLINGUAL intercepted and opened domestic mail of US citizens from the 50’s to the 70’s

Pretending the CIA does not or has not operate within our borders is downright silly…

jenningsthecat (profile) says:

Re: The US military won't target Americans

Yeah, right. The DHS has no mandate to go after various kinds of copyright ‘infringement’, but that hasn’t stopped them from prosecuting some poor guy just for linking to online videos:

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/03/10/new-york-man-faces-five-years-in-jail-for-linking-to-online-videos/

What makes you think the military will behave any differently? Power always seeks more power, and takes it howeever and whenever it can.

Joseph Goebbels says:

Makes me proud. Never in my life could I have imagined such a tool for propaganda. Nice. Use Patriotism, and the fear of bad things happening to children to reach your goal.

?Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state, for every form of power politics and any dictatorship-run state has its roots in the street.?
-Me

Fred (profile) says:

Seriously Funny - Sock Puppets?!

As long as there are bad guys there will be “good” guys trying to find them and “bad” guys trying to evade being found. The government really doesn’t have enough money, time or resources to care too much about your personal details. Are you really that important? The biggest comedy of our ages was “Enemy of the State.” It is not difficult to manage multiple social media accounts but they are just now getting around to doing this?! What kind of data are they really going to get with this approach. If they friend you what’s the big deal? Why are you sharing personal details with strangers anyway? Let’s get serious and spend some time having fun in Global Innovation Game (GiG)on Facebook (http://apps.facedbook.com/globalinnovationgame). You can share your ideas and see how they impact the world. I hope to lure thousands of “sock puppets” in and pick their collective Muppet brains on how to solve the real challenges our world faces.

HothMonster says:

Re: Seriously Funny - Sock Puppets?!

because its easy to become someone they think is important by being yourself on the internet things like:

http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2010/10/fbi-tracking-device/

some kid made a joke on reddit, the fbi uses his profile to find out who his friends are and then plants a tracking device on one of his friends. Im sure this kid really isnt that important, but now he is being tracked and wiretapped and lord knows what else.

I am certainly not that important but I dont trust the government to realize that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Lack of education makes the grey/black astroturfing propaganda machine possible

Sock puppets have been a part of the internet since day one. Software that can control multiple accounts has been used by spammers before, although in a sloppy manner. Not all of those companies in the bidding will drop plans to make such a system just because they didn’t win the government contract. And now that more people know the government wanted this type of propaganda tool, other software companies will create their own systems to do it. They can then sell it to China, Russia, the middle east and religious extremists. It will become a hot commodity for corporations to advertise or push their agendas. These tools will undoubtedly be used to sway elections and opinions in multiple countries including America. Maybe they’ve already been used for that.

The difference between today and when the internet began is that more people are buying into the authenticity of social networking accounts. The hive’s IQ level has changed for the worst since the internet began. Even mass media is being duped or being complicit in the problem, thanks to lack of fact checking in journalism nowadays. They pull up shit from twitter every day and use it as a primary source. They might bring up 10 tweets on the same subject and only sometimes they have enough integrity to tell the viewer “this information is unconfirmed”. But many viewers don’t take that seriously because they’re preconditioned to think social networking accounts are authentic human beings.

This might be the strongest propaganda tool that’s ever existed. Stronger than any state-ran propaganda tool in history. And even scarier because anyone can run their own propaganda campaigns, not just governments. Government reaction when they figure this out is going to be internet kill switch legislation and maybe more anti-propaganda laws which will have no effect on the people who use proaganda, just like anti-spam laws never stopped spam from reaching my inbox. People have had spam and scam education on the internet before and I suppose that has worked to an extent. This type of threat needs to be covered too.

jake andrews (profile) says:

On the subject of DOD entities targeting Americans.

First off I have spent almost ten years in Army Intelligence, I know exactly what I am talking about.
Bottom Line: The DOD Intelligence Oversight program states that (Paraphrased) Intelligence personnel may not intentionally target, collect, retain, and disseminate information on U.S. persons CONUS or OCONUS. Information pertaining to U.S. persons posing a threat to DoD personnel, resources or activities, is criminal information and falls under the purview of law enforcement and security. The key word here is intelligence personnel. The argument that “oh, those pysops guys spied on senators” holds no water, army pysops falls under special forces, not MI.
In response to Chris, the US military is not prohibited from conducting operations in the US, the US Military, when under federal control, is prohibited from enforcing US laws by Posse Comitatus. This is why the Coast Guard is not legally considered a military force and falls under DHS and not DOD.

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