US works on software to manipulate social media websites

US works on software to manipulate social media websites

The Guardian reported that the 'sock puppet' software creates fake online identities to influence internet conversations and then spread pro-US propaganda.

A firm based in California has been awarded the contract with US Central Command (Centcom) to develop an "online persona management service". It will permit one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based across the globe.

The contract says that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and other necessary details. Also, the contract stipulates that up to 50 US-based controllers should be in a position to operate false identities "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".

"The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US," Centcom spokesman Commander Bill Speaks was quoted as saying.

The official said the interventions would not be in English. The languages in which the interventions would be conducted include Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Pashto.

The Guardian said that after the software was ready, it could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated Facebook messages, blogposts, tweets, re-tweets, chatroom posts and other interventions.

Each controller will have the provision of one "virtual private server" located in the US and others appearing to be outside the US to give the impression the fake personas are real people located in different parts of the world.

Another aspect is described as "traffic mixing", which means blending the persona controllers' internet usage with the usage of people outside Centcom in a manner that must offer "excellent cover and powerful deniability".

The contract is believed to have been awarded as part of a programme called Operation Earnest Voice (OEV). The programme was first developed in Iraq as a psychological warfare weapon against the online presence of Al Qaida supporters and others ranged against coalition forces.

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