U.S. Military Software to Sway Online Arguments

U.S. Military Software to Sway Online Arguments

March 18, 2011 5:34 pm 0 comments

Are you one who believes the United States can do no wrong? If so, this post won’t matter much to you. But if you’ve studied history even on an elementary school level, you realize that this country has done or supported some pretty nasty stuff. The Internet gave us hope that governments could be held accountable, that those who possess the most power could be checked by the power of information dissemination on a mass scale. Those hopes are dashed today as we learn that the U.S. Military is developing software that will not only scour the web to look for negative press, but also manage complex dummy accounts that can spread pro-American sentiments in order to sway public opinion.

If what I write about constantly is true, that the potential for social media to allow for viral discourse allows multiple perspectives to weigh in on a given topic in an attempt to get to the truth, then this new campaign by our government is viral propaganda, an attempt at distorting the truth and disrupting sincere efforts to make this world more bearable.

The Guardian writes:

The project has been likened by web experts to China’s attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as “sock puppets” – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

And how does our obviously paranoid government get away with such an unconstitutional measure? The Patriot Act, of course, and by riding the wave of fear. Commander Bill Speaks, Centcom spokesman, said that “the technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.” So, we’re to believe that they are just fighting fire with fire, that it won’t be used to control domestic conversations around the web. Got it.

The Guardian piece points out that “Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being convicted of “criminal impersonation” and identity theft.” But like murder, I suppose it’s legal when the government sanctions it. I’m not trying to be overly political or alarmist, but if you ask me, this level of propaganda is the biggest threat to our liberty that we face in the 21st century.

*By the way, I’m linking to Centcom so that they know I’m being critical of them.

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