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February 26, 2018

State Department Troll Farm Receives Huge Cash Infusion

The U.S. State Department will increase its online trolling capabilities and up its support for meddling in other countries. The Hill reports:

The State Department is launching a $40 million initiative to crack down on foreign propaganda and disinformation amid widespread concerns about future Russian efforts to interfere in elections.

The department announced Monday that it signed a deal with the Pentagon to transfer $40 million from the Defense Department’s coffers to bolster the Global Engagement Center, an office set up at State during the Obama years to expose and counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.

The professed reason for the new funding is the alleged but unproven "Russian meddling" in the U.S. election campaign. U.S. Special Counsel Mueller indicted 13 Russians for what is claimed to be interference but which is likely mere commercial activity.

The announcement by the State Department explains that this new money will not only be used for measures against foreign trolling but to actively meddle in countries abroad:

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein said the transfer of funds announced today reiterates the United States’ commitment to the fight.

“This funding is critical to ensuring that we continue an aggressive response to malign influence and disinformation and that we can leverage deeper partnerships with our allies, Silicon Valley, and other partners in this fight,” said Under Secretary Goldstein. “It is not merely a defensive posture that we should take, we also need to be on the offensive.

The mentioning of Silicon Valley is of interest. The big Silicon Valley companies Google, Facebook and Twitter were heavily involved in the U.S. election campaign. The companies embedded people within the campaigns to advise them how to reach a maximum trolling effect:

While the companies call it standard practice to work hand-in-hand with high-spending advertisers like political campaigns, the new research details how the staffers assigned to the 2016 candidates frequently acted more like political operatives, doing things like suggesting methods to target difficult-to-reach voters online, helping to tee up responses to likely lines of attack during debates, and scanning candidate calendars to recommend ad pushes around upcoming speeches.

In May 2016 the Hillary Clinton campaign even set up her own troll farm:

Hillary Clinton's well-heeled backers have opened a new frontier in digital campaigning, one that seems to have been inspired by some of the Internet's worst instincts. Correct the Record, a super PAC coordinating with Clinton's campaign, is spending some $1 million to find and confront social media users who post unflattering messages about the Democratic front-runner.

In effect, the effort aims to spend a large sum of money to increase the amount of trolling that already exists online.

Clinton is quite experienced in such issues. In 2009, during protests in Iran, then Secretary of State Clinton pushed Twitter to defer maintenance of its system to "help" the protesters. In 2010 USAid, under the State Department set up a Twitter-like service to meddle in Cuba.

The foreign policy advisor of Hillery Clinton's campaign, Laura Rosenberger, initiated and runs the Hamilton68 project which falsely explains any mentioning of issues disliked by its neo-conservative backers as the result of nefarious "Russian meddling".

The State Department can build on that and other experience.

Since at least 2011 the U.S. military is manipulating social media via sock puppets and trolls:

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 Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".

It was then wisely predicted that other countries would follow up:

The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same.

Israel is long known for such information operations in which its paid trolls not only comment on issues on social media but actively manipulate Wikipedia entries. Such astroturfing has since become a common tool in commercial marketing campaigns.

With the new money the State Department will expand its Global Engagement Center (GEC) which is running "public diplomacy", aka propaganda, abroad:

The Fund will be a key part of the GEC’s partnerships with local civil society organizations, NGOs, media providers, and content creators to counter propaganda and disinformation. The Fund will also drive the use of innovative messaging and data science techniques.

Separately, the GEC will initiate a series of pilot projects developed with the Department of Defense that are designed to counter propaganda and disinformation. Those projects will be supported by Department of Defense funding.

This money will be in addition to the large funds the CIA traditionally spends on manipulating foreign media:

“We’ve been doing this kind of thing since the C.I.A. was created in 1947,” said Mr. Johnson, now at the University of Georgia. “We’ve used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners — you name it. We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers. We’ve used what the British call ‘King George’s cavalry’: suitcases of cash.”
C.I.A. officials told Mr. Johnson in the late 1980s that “insertions” of information into foreign news media, mostly accurate but sometimes false, were running at 70 to 80 a day.

Part of the new State Department money will be used to provide grants. If online trolling or sock puppetry is your thing, you may want to  apply now.

Posted by b on February 26, 2018 at 19:02 UTC | Permalink

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Jim, I agree that Alexander Hamilton was a terrible “founder,” but he was never President.

Please allow me to ramble on the hip-hop and VERY hip Broadway smash, “Hamilton,” and its creator, Manuel Miranda. I bet psychohistorian and other dissenters to our private banking cartels will find this interesting, as well.

I dug into it a bit because I loathe Al Hamilton, and so was rather taken aback that this Broadway Musical about him had become the biggest, hippest thing going.

Miranda got the inspiration to write “Hamilton” when someone gave him the biography of Hamilton written by Ron Chernow.

Chernow (naturally, a rabid Zionist) had earlier written "The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family" which won the 1993 George S. Eccles Prize for Excellence in Economic Writing.

He also wrote, “The House of Morgan: An American Banking Dynasty and the Rise of Modern Finance” and yet another hagiographic biography of John D. Rockefeller Sr.

Quite an apologist for bankster greed, eh?

And check this out: before Miranda’s Hamilton even opened, they had already sold $30 Million worth of tickets!

It would appear that Miranda - who is a talented writer - was groomed and heavily financed. And he does have connections. His father was a Democratic Party Consultant who worked for NYC Mayor Koch. His sister is the the Chief Financial Officer of the MirRam Group.

He graduated from HRC”s alma mater, Wesleyan University. His wife, Vanessa Adriana Nadal is an attorney with the international law firm, Jones Day - which I just learned is the largest law firm in the US, and whose portfolio is chocked full of Wall Street, Rockefeller and many other trans-national corporations and banks. The late Justice Scalia worked there.

Oh what a tangled web the Bohemian Grove spiders weave.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 28 2018 20:49 utc | 101

Oh and to tie in how dangerous painting bankster greed as "hip" and cool can be, Manuel Miranda appeared on several late night TV shows last year to tearfully recite his hip-hop plea to Congress to pass the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act, (PROMESA).

This law did allow Puerto Rico to keep it's doors open by loaning it yet more money, but also guaranteed that banksters and hedge funds would be paid before and above all else - including teachers or first responders or the state-owned electrical company.

Well, President Obama signed it into law, and within a few months, Puerto Rico was devastated by two hurricane hits in 2 weeks, and is currently being carved up by the "Disaster Capitalism" Friedman/Chicago School plunderers. And of course, they're privatizing public schools and the electrical company and instead of hiring locals, shipped in hundreds of "contractors" to rebuild infrastructure.

Posted by: Daniel | Feb 28 2018 21:10 utc | 102

@ Daniel with the background on Manuel Miranda

The future is here but not evenly distributed. While humanity has evolved tremendously in some areas, we are very backwards in our relation to the God of Mammon cult around economic interactions. It hearkens back to the days when faith was the big control mechanism. The blind faith in the God of Mammon comes with ongoing brainwashing these days along with continuous war and strife to maintain the fear level.

Posted by: psychohistorian | Feb 28 2018 21:28 utc | 103

As a teenager, Lin Manuel Miranda was stuffed into a garbage can by rapper Immortal Technique. Turns out he really was garbage.

Posted by: sejomoje | Feb 28 2018 23:06 utc | 104

Hey b

I won't provide the link but ZH has just done a version of this article and I didn't check to see how close it was but glad to see they are try to catch you....grin

Posted by: psychohistorian | Mar 1 2018 6:43 utc | 105

Actually, given American labor costs and labor intensity of the disinformation program, 40 million dollars is a smallish amount. I guess the bulk of such activity is conducted by secret agencies.

Posted by: Piotr Berman | Mar 1 2018 11:27 utc | 106

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