Monday, May 23, 2011

US Government Pursues Software for Propaganda Trolls

I started noticing troll behavior during the Gulf oil spill. It was easy to spot trolls because they are very aggressive and disagree with any industry criticism. The blogger at Naked Capitalism, Ives Smith, has found them so disruptive that she has stated she is going to censor trolls now.

Trolls are usually employed by industry (I've had students describe being employed as trolls) but the government is getting into full-scale troll warfare, as the article linked below illustrates.

Troll behavior has been very evident in discussion boards and comment sections examining the effects of radiation from Fukushima and the scope of the disaster. Troll comments often emphasize the (false) banana dose exposure equivalent for radiation or other false equivalents such as X-Rays or airline travel equivalents.

I've gone on at length about why these are false equivalents. They demonstrate how trolls are attempting to shape public opinion about the disaster specifically and nuclear energy more generally.

Here is the article about government's foray into Internet troll propaganda:

"U.S. Government Writes Software to Enable Squads of Propaganda Comment Trolls"

"Sounds like the deranged words of a conspiracy theorist: The U.S. military is (not so) secretly creating software that’ll generate phony online personae in order to subtly influence social media conversations and spread propaganda. But what may sound like wacky theory is actually wacky reality, or at least will soon be, depending on whether it’s already in the works.

Dubbed the “online persona management service,” this technology would enable a single soldier to assume upwards of 10 different identities. As United States Central Command Commander Bill Speaks told The Guardian, “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”

"Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command. [The Guardian]


Hat tip Anna at e-news

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