The White House and its henchmen, in the forms of the U.S. intelligence and the Pentagon, have been using social networking sites to overthrow undesirable regimes at least since 2000. An entire industry of misinformation and public opinion manipulation has been created. Acting on the orders of Washington, real or virtual activists are trying to convince public opinion of the “spontaneous” nature of popular protests, and the conducted psychological war operations are presented as the “free expression of public opinion”. All the events of the “Arab Spring”, “color revolutions” or the latest developments in Ukraine are typical examples of how an unstable socio-political and general economic situation in a country is widely used for making radical changes in a country’s government.
U.S. authorities have repeatedly talked about the great, if not fundamental, importance of social networks, in particular Twitter and Facebook, in organizing the protests of the “Arab Spring”, and the mobilization of opposition forces in a situation of political instability. Using social networks, the White House henchmen coordinated the movement of protest groups and concentrated them at specified points for the holding of mass rallies in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, Syria and Ukraine. With an active participation of special services, directly interested in political reforms in specific countries, people are mobilized for anti-government protests through mass mailing appeals, spreading of political ads, etc. on social networking sites. In 2010, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reported that every year the U.S. allocated at least $25 million through the State Department to support bloggers and Internet activists, using them in an information war and to coordinate protests.
Back in 2011, the British newspaper The Guardian reported on the development of a special software by the Department of Defense designed for hidden manipulation of sentiments of social networks members with the help of fictive online persons that provide an intellectual impact on Internet users and promote pro-American propaganda. This operation received the codenamed Operation Earnest Voice (OEV). In 2011, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency in the U.S. Department of Defense (DARPA) announced a tender for the creation of a special program SMISC (Social Media in Strategic Communication) for this operation. The explanatory note to this tender read as follows: “The conditions, in which our armed forces carry out their operations, are changing rapidly under the influence of blogs, social networking sites, file-sharing services (such as YouTube) and mobile technologies. The spread of social networking services may have a very profound impact on the nature of conflicts. An effective use of these services will allow the armed forces to provide more qualitative information support of the operations.”
The corresponding contract between the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the California company Ntrepid, specially registered for the implementation of this program, was concluded in 2011 for the amount of $2,760,000
The first stage of the Operation Earnest Voice was successfully implemented in Iraq, and the software developments were used as a psychological weapon against the supporters of al-Qaeda. After that, funding of the operation was increased to $200 million, and now it is being conducted in Pakistan, Afghanistan, North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, as well as in Ukraine. CIA and Pentagon experts consider this operation as a very important component in addressing the task of the White House for political and ideological dominance in these regions.
This technology was intended for use in Facebook, Twitter, and provides an opportunity to chat with bloggers in their native language, i.e., Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Pashto, etc. The developed software allows responding to conversations with any number of blogs, chats and individuals round the clock.
Within the Operation Earnest Voice, the practical use of the SMISC is carried out by the U.S. DoD, together with coalition partners.
In 2011, the spokesman of the CENTCOM Commander Bill Speaks said that the created SMISC provides an opportunity to use blogs on foreign websites to fight the “hostile propaganda outside the U.S.A.”
Let us see how Operation Earnest Voice and the SMISC developed for it by Ntrepid work.
Using the developed SMISC, a network of fictive online persons is created; they are registered with territorial binding to the information space in various countries. This procedure results in the impression of the existence of real people located in different regions of the planet, rather than sock puppets. An individual “biographical legend” and character “details” are created for each of the sock puppets. Ultimately, it is impossible even for advanced opponents to discover the fact of the manipulation of such fictive online persons, who can easily gain the trust of local bloggers.
The on-line persona management service, developed by Ntrepid, allows a single operator of a special workstation to control the communication with more than 10 real people in the information space, located in different corners of the Earth. The operations control center was located in MacDill AFB near Tampa (Florida), where the headquarters of the U.S. CENTCOM is located.
Round the clock, each program operator is provided with a virtual private server, located in the United States or abroad. The program provides an opportunity to “mix traffic”, i.e., to use both CENTCOM staff, and agents outside this structure, which, according to the Pentagon and the CIA leadership, provides an “excellent cover and powerful arguments of denial”.
Traces of the implementation of the Operation Earnest Voice by the White House are obvious today on news sites and discussions in many countries, especially in Ukraine in the last few days. Website visitors are skillfully pitted against each other using this technology, interethnic hostility is implanted.
On the basis of the experiences of using Operation Earnest Voice, the U.S. Department of Defense has conducted over a dozen command and staff exercises to practice updated tasks in the information war in recent years. To coordinate such actions, an automated control system of information war combat operations and a strategic plan for its conduct, Integrated Operation Plan, were developed, where much attention is given to the further development and deepening of cooperation of Internet giants with the U.S. intelligence agencies. In particular, Google and the National Security Agency.
Vladimir Platov, expert on the Middle East, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.