The U.S. military is funding a software project that aims to create fake profiles on Facebook in order to counter enemy propaganda coming from foreign countries.
This comes from the Guardian, based on an interview with Commander Bill Speaks, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, (Centcom) which oversees military operations in the Middle East and Asia.
The U.K. newspaper said that Centcom has hired an unnamed company in California to create an application that aims to influence conversations taking place via social media — among people speaking languages other than English.
The project specs call for an “online persona management service that will allow one U.S. serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world,” and “up to 50 U.S.-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries,” the paper said.
In other words, the U.S. military wants to covertly and securely converse with jihadists and try to dissuade them from plotting acts of destruction. These online conversations would include posts on Facebook.
The project described by Speaks sounds less menacing than the way hacktivists like Anonymous have complained about spyware that might interfere with everyone’s privacy on social media sites. The U.S. military software wouldn’t bother with English language posts on Facebook but rather converse in Arabic, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, plus numerous other dialects spoken in the Middle East and Asia.
Doing any of this in the English language wouldn’t be legal, Centcom’s spokesman told the Guardian. We presume he was alluding to a new California state law that makes online impersonation a misdemeanor crime when it intends to objective of harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud. However, since Facebook’s headquarters happen to be in California, that legislation just might prevail over any plans by the U.S. military.
Readers, what do you think about the U.S. military’s intentions here?