Monday, November 27, 2017

This is not what democracies should be doing

One of the hallmarks of undemocratic regimes is the government's use of propaganda against their own population to keep themselves in power and support government goals. So naturally, the US is now doing this:

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.

A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world.

The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.

Supposedly, this is all OK because none of it will be in English and therefore it won't target US audiences. But this ignores the fact that the international media often rely on local social media reports to build stories. A planted tweet in Pashtun could easily end up on the front page of the New York Times. And this is exactly what they're after - because one of the key stories the US military wants to shape and influence is civilian casualties from their drone assassination program.

This is not what a democracy should be doing. But its been clear for a long time that the US is no longer the "world's greatest democracy". Instead they're just another over-armed, authoritarian empire, bullying the world while beating domestic dissent with a stick.