That annoying teen with a strange political bent on your blog may in fact be an aging US army sergeant spewing American propaganda, while also impersonating a 13-year old girl on your buddies Twitter.
A new US military spy operation takes manipulation to a new level, using social media to tackle the online world. America’s new 'sock puppet' software allows the military to simultaneously create multiple fake online identities to spread a pro-American message.
Nope, you are not being spammed. You have been targeted! You are so popular on Twitter, Facebook or where ever else you might spend your time online that the government wants to comment on your blog, many, many times to make sure their message is the loudest.
You can block them, report it as spam, but it will not work. The views will keep coming back. The military has awarded a contract to a California company to make sure of that.
The new software creates a super online persona management service allowing military members to control multiple online identities at once. The personas are generated to boast a convincing back story, a history and required supporting information. In addition, up to at least 50 controllers need to be able to operate their false identities from their government computers concurrently – "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries," of course.
To ensure diversity among the face identifies, the system will use one US server and eight abroad to ensure the American message comes from a global perspective.
One the system is fully in place American service members can cozy up at their computers at any and all hours to respond to messages across the social web multiple times and on multiple websites. The same service member can deny bombings in Afghanistan under an assumed American, French or even an Afghan identity while also promoting US humanitarian aid in Japan under a Japanese pen name and systematically promote revolution in Latin America – or anywhere else they so choose.
The military however claims, while it can certainly do these things, they plan to only focus on “blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US,” according to Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks.
He explained it would be unlawful to “address US audiences" with the technology and the online profiles would be in non-English script. However, laws not prevented the military from acting out of line in the past – including recent revelations the US army attempted to sue psychological manipulations against US senators to garner increased Afghan war funding.
Interestingly enough, impersonation in the US is a criminal offense. Once can be subjected to jail time if found guilty of doing so, online or off. The military US does not seem too concerned.