US military to create social media sock-puppet force

The US Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East & Central Asia has contracted with a California company Ntrepid create an “online persona management service” — according to a report in The Guardian.

The system will let one US military employee to manage at least 10 fake online personalities (or, sock puppets) on social media. The corporation would help the military create convincing details and backgrounds for the sock puppets, so that the military can better join in selected conversations, commentaries, and exchanges online.

The Centcom spokesman says that “The technology supports classified blogging activities on foreign-language websites to enable Centcom to counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US.”

The system would disguise that the persona was based in a US military setting. It would be directed at foreign audiences. If it were used towards US citizens, it could be found illegal. One man in New York who created a sock-puppet online, to impersonate an academic, was convicted of ‘criminal impersonation’ and identity theft, and serving jail time.

It might also be illegal in the UK, contravening the Forgery & Counterfeiting Act of 1981 — if it is found to inducing others to accept a false instrument as genuine.