On Monday, Glenn Greenwald reported that the NSA’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ),
has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, “amplif[y]” sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be “extremist.” The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call.
Not surprisingly, the tools used by the British surveillance agency were developed by its Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) and reportedly “constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive.”
In a similar disclosure made earlier this year, Greenwald reported that GCHQ was attempting “to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse.”
Specifically, the story revealed that in the JTRIG document released by Snowden, agents are instructed in ways to achieve two central goals: First, “to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets”; and second, “to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.”
Page after page, the document outlines how agents should “disrupt” the lives — online and real life — of targets, including instructions on conducting “false flag operations” online.
This latest document shines light on a lengthy roster of tactics and tools employed by GCHQ and NSA to monitor and manipulate social media content. Of the newly publicized methods, Greenwald reports:
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