the sock puppet war that threatens democracy

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  • 8/4/2019 The Sock Puppet War That Threatens Democracy

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    Welcome to EarthPulseDaily POST The place where Earth and energy meet.

    August 21, 2011

    Republican sockpuppets threaten democracyPosted by EarthPulseDaily on Friday, March 18, 2011 Under: psychology

  • 8/4/2019 The Sock Puppet War That Threatens Democracy



    Conservative institutions like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have seized U.S. military computer software andhave turned it on American citizens. The technology that is being used is called persona management systems,and it allows one internet user to appear as though they are 10, 50, 70, or more users online. The uses for suchsoftware are many, including military applications such as subverting online activities of violent extremists (al-Qaida), as well as countering enemy propaganda (WikiLeaks) outside the US, but it has most recently beenemployed against domestic initiatives to regulate greenhouse gases and the development of a clean energyindustry by organizations that have no business using U.S. military psychological weapons against Americancitizens.

    The computer software was first developed by military contractors during the Iraq war; it was then expanded to beused against jihadists across Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Middle East. The software was used in an effort to

    influence online conversations and steer trends in a programmed manner; it is considered part of the military'spsychological weaponry arsenal. [1]

    The use of computer software to assume false identities online is not necessarily legal, but the official legality of itdepends on who it is being used against. The online management of multiple personalities is called sockpuppetry in more casual circles. While the military use of persona management software against foreign adversaries islegal, its use against U.S. citizens is not, and there are instances where those individuals and institutions that haveengaged in sockpuppetry have faced prosecution. [1]

    Sockpupettry in its early days was pretty innocent. It was simply an attempt by online writers to make their webpages seem more popular by posting multiple comments on the bottom of their posts pretending to be severaldifferent people. It was considered to be part of the first wave of the phenomenon known as astroturfing, thecreation of fake support for an otherwise unpopular idea; in most cases, it was used as part of campaigns focusedon pushing corporate agendas.

    But in the most recent midterm election cycle in the U.S., we saw the phenomenon of astroturfing andsockpuppetry thrust into politics on a scale not seen before. These fake movements around false informationmoved into national politics through the creation of the Tea Party, which has quickly been absorbed into theRepublican base.

    The Tea Party is nothing but a fake grassroot movement that was created by powerful fossil fuel interests as ananswer to the Democrats dominance on policy early in Barack Obama's presidency. [17] Moves to broadenhealthcare coverage and then expand regulation of emissions in America was seen as a direct threat to the

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    established global paradigm of externalizing risks while privatizing profits enjoyed for nearly a decade under Bush/Cheney. When power switched hands in 2008 and a wave of change swept over America, corporations thathad benefited immensely from the lax regulations of Cheney's secret energy policy crafted an elaborate campaignthat involved false information and fake groups that would give the appearance that there was more support for their ideas than there really was in reality. How could policies that only benefit 2% of the American population atsuch great cost to the vast majority of citizens in this country gain any traction without the use of some kind of internet technology that could transform one person into many in the digital world online where more and morepeople are getting their information from?

    After the Tea Party was swept up under the Republican umbrella, the billionaires' astroturf campaign wasincorporated into the political mainstream, giving it and its creators more power than they had hoped for. How didthe Tea Party movement gain so much power in such a short period of time? How are their leaders in Congressable now to push bills through that seek to dismantle Supreme Court mandates based upon Congressionallyapproved legislation? Why would they seek to negate the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts that obviously benefitevery single American on the most basic of levels?

    The answers to these questions are pretty simple; the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts are bad for business; theyare, however, good for people. There are probably a lot of people in the rural parts of Pennsylvania who wish theycould go back in time and change their votes in light of the fracking epidemic that is now plaguing their statethreatening to toxify their drinking water and send their emission levels to levels only seem in America's major

    cities. [20]

    First, it is important to point out that most people now are getting their political information online; more and more,people are turning to social media networks to get information about issues and candidates. In fact, a majority of

    Americans engaged in campaign related activities online in the 2010 midterm elections. [15] It is well documentedthat this trend of online political users is growing and will play a major role in the 2012 presidential election. [16]

    The Koch brothers and other energy industry billionaires, who would prefer to dismantle America's laws instead of adapt their corporate strategies, have realized this online trend and have employed the use of internet computer software technology formerly reserved for America's enemies abroad and have turned it on American citizens inthe hope of intimidating and ultimately silencing their political opponents, thus usurping American democracy.

    Anyone who reads particular topics regularly online has noticed it. The topics of clean energy, energy policy,

    climate change, environmental responsibility, or sustainability draw the most attention from sockpuppeteers. Articles that gain even modest attention through Google's search engines, within hours, attract a swarm of veryangry, non-eloquent users who spew short bursts of vitriolic vomit in the comment sections. This is done in aneffort to discredit the piece as well as create a bandwagon effect for those people who look to others to find outwhat to think about complex topics. This would not be a problem if the comments were representative of

    Americans' thoughts, but it now seems apparent that, particularly with the issue of climate change and energypolicy, that the comment sections of articles on these topics are being targeted by energy moguls using themilitary's persona management software. In other words, most strings of comments at the base of these articlesare made by one person appearing to be up to as many as 70 different people, all armed with their own webpages,email, business front, and trappings of Joe average concerned citizen so as not to draw suspicion. In reality, thisperson is employed by someone in the energy industry to monitor the internet, seek out articles contrary to theindustry position, and bomb them with negative vitriol.

    The software that is used is capable of creating detailed backgrounds complete with webpage, email, and agenuine business front in order to make their 'expertise' seem more believable. The software even is able to makethe created personas appear as though they are coming from any location in the world so as to prevent further suspicion, as well as the diversity of opposition. Some more sophisticated software is capable of commenting onlive streams even when its operator is not present [3]; in essence, online comments, in some instances, has beenautomated.

    These online robots have now been tied to online climate change deniers; [9] but the campaign againstrepresentative democracy does not stop there. The software has been used by conservative organizations totarget labor unions, progressive organizations, journalists, and progressive bloggers. [4] The scene in Wisconsin

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    that has spread across the country is indicative of of this trend; a relatively small group of people seized power under the guise that they were the majority, and when they tried to implement their ideas, they met stiff resistancefrom the actual majority. [18]

    So, where did this information come from; how was it exposed that energy billionaires like the Kochs were payingfor military software to be used against American citizens? This part of the story is actually quite interesting. Acompany named HBGary Federal, a U.S. military contractor, is in some pretty hot water after the cyber-activistgroup Anonymous hacked into the company's email stream and published the contents of some 60,000 emailsonline. [10] HBGary Federal makes persona management software, and part of the email cache that waspublished online revealed their connection not only to attempts to discredit WikiLeaks and sympathetic journaliststo the cause, but also to organizations that were actively involved in influencing domestic political campaignsthrough the use of persona management software. [5] While HBGary Federal was targeted for its attack onWikiLeaks, other more interesting information was discovered in the email cache, and it is that information thatbrought the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's use of military persona management software to light. [11]

    It doesn't appear that liberal cyber-activist groups like Anonymous are alone in their efforts to m