Thursday 10 March 2011

Operation Earnest Voice Part III

More on Operation Earnest Voice (OEV), the US Army's top secret psyops initiative aimed at the manipulation of social media through the use of fake online personas. This $200 million CENTCOM programme was first developed for use in Iraq and is now said to be targeted at countering Taliban propaganda in Afghanistan.
The theory behind the programme is that a single individual can control large numbers of online personas from a single computer screen, presumably to influence the activities of targeted individuals. It goes without saying that the use of this kind of software by the US army against US citizens would be illegal.
Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March last year, General David H Petraeus said OEV "is the critical program of record that resources our efforts to synchronize our Information Operations activities, to counter extremist ideology and propaganda, and to ensure that credible voices in the region are heard.  OEV provides CENTCOM with direct communication capabilities to reach regional audiences through traditional media as well as via websites and regional public affairs blogging. In each of these efforts, we follow the admonition we practiced in Iraq, that of trying to be “first with the truth.”"  
One can imagine how easy it would be to influence events via Twitter, for example, where people tend to follow particular hashtags. Astute tweeting on a popular hashtag by a lot of personas acting in unison could easily be used to divert people away from what was really happening. The same applies to Facebook, chatrooms and other social media venues. Stephen C Webster at the Raw Story has done an excellent job of explaining the way in which contracts were let for Operation Earnest Voice and the people involved. 
Already I have mentioned that Neal Harper of Mission Communications claims to have developed the strategy behind OEV. Now another name has surfaced. Joseph Cook is a Japanese-American telecommunications specialist who since the beginning of this month works for the US government's Defense Information Systems Agency. For three years prior to that he worked at USCENTCOM where he helped to run 17 counter-terrorism and stability operations. He lists his notable achievements on LinkedIn  as managing development communication plans such as Operation Earnest Voice.
More information welcome.


Ned Hamson said...

$200 million of your tax dollars are being spent to try and influence the Afghanistan conflict by a few contractors pretending to be dozens of different Taliban, Taliban sympathizers, and other Afghans who oppose efforts of Afghan government and NATO.

What if everyone in a 100 person chat room or network is actually two guys - one a NATO contractor and the other a Taliban contractor and living in the same hotel in a rich Kabul suburb? And they figure this out but continue the game because the money is pretty good.

Grin. Ha, ha, ha - as the two contractors nod to each other on the way to the bank.

Nick Fielding said...

If you haven't read GK Chesterton's The Man who was Thursday, which is written on exactly that premise, I can heartily recommend it.

Dmitry said...

Influencing Afghanistan? Don't make us laugh, guys:)

Afghanis would start using social networks in 22nd century - probably.

China is targeted - this is so obvious. And Russia too. European public opinion would probably be manipulated too - but, my, what Afghanis?

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