DISINFORMATION and PSYOPS: Corporate, Government, and Personal
The Panopticon and Testbed
Recent stories online have got me to thinking again about the internet and it’s effects on just about everything. Specifically though of late the idea of how the internet is being used in efforts of control and observation of course have been at the forefront of my mind. Since the revelations of “Snowman” came out just about everyone has had to face the facts that I and many others were saying all along, primarily this; “The internet is a massive and accessible form of control” We are living digitally in a panopticon.
For a long time after the revelation that the MAE West was split and a NARUS STA6400 was placed inline, I have been saying that we all were being surveiled in a driftnet approach to intelligence collection. Some considered me a tinfoil hatter but the reality is that the government has long been using the net as a means of intelligence gathering. Now though there has been a paradigm shift from not only using the internet as a means of surveillance but also as a means of control over the populace.
One way of controlling a populace is with the use of disinformation. What got me thinking about this though today was an article about how the recent online threats made by alleged hackers against Emma Watson turns out to maybe be a marketing stunt. Evidently a site was set up with a countdown to the release of nudes like those recently dropped by hackers in the “Fappening” The twist here is that in the end the site was just a shill to manipulate people by clickbaiting them and then using that traffic to make money possibly off of ads. There may be other designs behind this site and hoax but it sets a precedent that people should be paying attention to.
In the world of APT (Advanced Persistent Threats) and SE (Social Engineering) this is a common tactic. You bait the user with something that they just have to see and get them to click on something to infect themselves whether that be a file or a website or a link to one. This particular incident is in fact a form of disinformation just like the tweets coming out of ISIS/L trying to scare people into actions or behaviours. In this case the behaviour or action served the purposes of the creators to potentially make quite a bit of money from traffic to a particular site. In other instances this can lead to the compromise of corporations, governments, and end users to steal data such as confidential information or credit cards.
On a grander scheme though you can see the geopolitical actions of disinformation at play with every nation that has available internet access. If you look at the twitter streams and pages of Russia you can see manipulation going on in such cases as the last ill fated Malaysian airliner that was shot from the sky. In fact, the Russians have a very active online Trolling campaign that they use to manipulate people that sometimes is poor enough to just see right through. In other instances the information that is being used is not so easily determined to be skewed or false.
Now consider the whole debate over climate change. Take a look at the “Climategate” incident as well as all of the players involved both government and corporate that have had their hands in the manipulation of public opinion. It’s not just governmental and not just criminal but now a common practice of corporations and I would say has been so since the invention of Advertising and the primacy of Madison Avenue. I suggest you all go watch Mad Men again but not just to watch the unspooling of Don Draper’s life but how the advertising business works.
PSYOPS on the other hand were more military in origin but then the age of Advertising came along again and started using their precepts as well. In the case of PSYOPS online they are often used by military and government but never count the corporate entities out of the game. Recently it came to light that Facebook carried out some manipulation of it’s users in a program that wanted to see just how much they could change their moods. This experiment was also alleged to be affiliated with the military as well due to funding so you can start to see how it’s a win/win for Zuck right? Manipulate your user base to get them to be pliant and click on ads all the while being a potential pawn in a larger war for hearts and minds for the military?
As I mentioned above this type of warfare is being carried out on Twitter by the likes of ISIS/L as well as the USA. In the case of the US they are trying to troll ISIS and their possible base into “Turning Away” from radical jihad. With both of these cases you can see just how ISIS does this a lot better than the US. However, I would then point you to the chickenhawks all on Fox and other news sources decrying that ISIS is a fundamental threat to the US. Unless you pay attention and do the due diligence reading you may miss that the Pentagon says that ISIS is not as much of a threat to the US (via terrorism) than the current Khorasan group that is an AQ offshoot.
It’s easy to lose the truth between all of the shouting here online and off. Just how much is PSYOP to get a groundswell of support from the likes of the populace and their representatives in Congress is anybodies guess. I for one though think that there is a lot of this going on but too many people focus on the governmental and should start thinking about corporations that now feel empowered to carry out these kinds of campaigns because they have the money and the will to do so.
*cough BIG TOBACCO and OIL cough*
The New (old) Dystopia:
So what it all comes down to for me is that we all need to be more mindful of this kind of manipulation. Remember too that it was the likes of HB Gary that were offering platforms to automatically manipulate people via social media for intelligence gathering as well as other desired effects. The dystopia kids isn’t just from surveillance but also PSYOPS and DISINFORMATION that manipulates people into actions desired by those carrying them out. In the case of the 4chan hating alleged hackers of Emma Watson’s pictures? Well, I am sure there’s a bank account somewhere with more money in it. I also can assume that there are some people having a real laugh about it as well. What’s more, these people also are feeling very smug because they got all of you to click on a link and do the work for them.
Just remember to vet what you read kids and be mindful that the internet is an open forum to manipulate you as well as your traffic.