How British Spies “Seed the Internet with False Info, Control YouTube Pageviews and Manipulate Online Polls”

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.25.47 PMThanks to Edward Snowden, we now have proof about an incredible set of tools used by the British equivalent of the NSA, known as the GCHQ, or Government Communications Headquarters. These tools will essentially confirm every single conspiracy theory you could have ever imagined when it comes to propaganda on the Internet. It allows British intelligence officers to: “manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, ‘amplify’ sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be ‘extremist.’”

Being the creative folks that they are, GCHQ even came up with code words to describe each “product.” These include, UNDERPASS (for poll manipulation), SILVERLORD (for censorship), GESTATOR (for the manipulation of YouTube views), PREDATORS FACE (for DDOS attacks), the list goes on…

Glenn Greenwald writes at The Intercept that:

The secretive British spy agency 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.

The tools were created by GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIG’s use of “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag operations,” “honey traps” and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users.

GCHQ refused to provide any comment on the record beyond its standard boilerplate, in which it claims that it acts “in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework” and is subject to “rigorous oversight.” But both claims are questionable.

 Several GCHQ memos published last fall by The Guardian revealed that the agency was eager to keep its activities secret not to protect national security, but because “our main concern is that references to agency practices (ie, the scale of interception and deletion) could lead to damaging public debate which might lead to legal challenges against the current regime.”

This last line is of crucial importance. The entire point of spying has nothing to do with terrorism, but as many of us have suspected, it is all about protecting and maintaining the status quo.

Oh, and just in case these products aren’t enough fascism for you, no need to fret. We learn that:

And JTRIG urges its GCHQ colleagues to think big when it comes to internet deception: “Don’t treat this like a catalogue. If you don’t see it here, it doesn’t mean we can’t build it.”

So next time you question the number of views on a certain video, or your website experiences a DDOS attack, there may be a intel officer at the other end of the line with a giant sign saying “fuck you mate.”

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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14 Comments

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  1. I know it appears a great thing that Snowden and Greenwald are doing. It’s bringing to light the machinations of the deep state in its NSA monitoring role. But why the slow roll out of all this information and through Pierre Omidyar’s news organization? I don’t believe it’s because they needed time to properly vet the information and make sure they don’t get sued for false statements.

    Maybe it’s the whole limited hang out thing, feeding the public information drip by drip, making the alternative press part of the psyop. They WANT us to know we are being watched. Perhaps this is just mission accomplished, another way to instruct the people on self-censorship. Now we know we are being watched. Just sayin….

    • Or maybe if it were all released at once, it would have been a flash in the pan, quickly forgotten. Whereas by stretching it out, it keeps a spotlight on the issue for long enough for it to sink into even the thickest deniers’ skulls.

      “They WANT us to know we are being watched.” Maybe so. So what do you think? Better for us not to know?

      Maybe, maybe, maybe.

      Let’s keep it simple. They spy on us. It’s illegal. At the personal level, we should take steps to protect our privacy. At the social level, we should stop them.

      • By Snowden stretching out his release of information, it does indeed help to keep the spotlight on this issue over time. Releasing one big information dump is maybe not the best thing. Also, the guy wants to keep this thing rolling as does Greenwald. They’re got careers to think about! Nobody wants to be just a one hit wonder.

  2. We live in a dangerous world folks. Like it or not, that incredible set of tools that has us all wondering how they are being used has been used to thwart dozens if not hundreds of terrorists plots by crazy Islamic Jihadists seeking “holy martyrdom” by murdering innocent men, women and children who are non believers. Britain has a worse problem than we have here in the U.S. Do I like being spied upon ? Of course not. BUT what would you prefer: Feeling safe and somewhat secure knowing that your government is doing what they can to “protect and defend” by using everything at their disposal OR losing your privacy. In today’s world I am afraid we cannot have both without paying a price.

    • Michael Krieger

      Easy question. I would prefer my privacy. Secondly, the NSA hasn’t stopped any terror attacks with their spying anyway. It’s a giant fraud: http://libertyblitzkrieg.com/2013/10/03/nsa-chief-admits-only-one-or-perhaps-two-terror-plots-stopped-by-spy-program/

      Next.

      Best,
      Michael Krieger

    • Problem, Reaction, Solution. I call bullshit on the big worry about crazy terrorists seeking holy martydom. Maybe we’ve been creating this scenario for it to become so. It seems we are part of its creation by our actions as terrorists ourselves. If so fuck you people who are now peeing in your pants with worry. You and your government created this situation by your ignorance. And if you’re trolling to help spread worry, fuck you too.

    • Britain can kick them out. The US can admit defeat in the war on abstract nouns (not to mention their own tactics).

      Rather than giving yourself an excuse to stick your head back in the sand, why don’t you take the *evident* danger seriously from now on, and maybe for the rest of your life?

    • Your statement amounts to “It’s a dangerous world so please put me in a cage.” What makes you so sure you can trust your ‘owners’? Throughout history peoples’ worst enemies have often been their own leaders.

      It also takes for granted something that has not been demonstrated, to my knowledge: “…to thwart dozens if not hundreds of terrorists plots…”

      Finally, you show serious ignorance of what is actually going on in the world. One major example: 9/11 was unquestionably a demolition, certainly an inside job. Take 5 hours and watch the documentary ‘September 11, The New Pearl Harbor’ if you don’t agree. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1GCeuSr3Mk

  3. @ Andrewfitts,

    With our attention spans so short, perhaps this is the best way to keep it in the limelight.

    Heck, most people have already forgotten about Julian Assange.

    If they release all the info at once, in six months it is lost on the general population.

    Anyone remember how the Globaloney Warming conference in Copenhagen was taken down?

    Anyone still remember that while the media keeps trumpeting “Climate Change is a Fact?” Doesn’t appear to be many people do.

    • Millions remember it all, and the internet will remember it forever.

      The lesson is still the same again and again; the truth always comes out. Naturally, millions upon millions of government-trained bureaucrats still can’t quite grasp that the internet basically means the lying isn’t ever going to fly among people who use electricity.

      That persistence is basically the definition: reality is all those aspects of your experience that don’t go away when you stop thinking about them.

      Indeed, sometimes they are the most *severe* realities *because* we’ve ignored them! (And that’s precisely what will convert the soft tyranny we have into hard tyranny; when the plebes wake and and start seeking blood, because that’s when they will decide that ‘we’ have moved ‘beyond’ democracy.)

  4. This situation (various agencies constantly trying to hack on the truth) is effectively permanent.

    That means the correct response to avoid such systematic attempts at deception is to develop the personal psychological strength to always honestly question our own biases, always seek evidence for what we believe about the world, and stop trusting or even caring about opinion polls because 1) opinions change 2) people lie 3) and are crazy and 4) It’s not really any of your fucking business anyway, is it?

    Put another way; if you care so much what other people think, you’ll get exactly what you deserve.

  5. Hi Michael,

    I have got a question. Do you think that Glenn Greenwalds partnership with Pierre Omidyar is a good or a bad thing?

    Various whistleblowers have criticized Greenwalds partnership with Omidyar. Ex-NSA employee and whistleblower William Binney said that Greenwald’s partnership with Omidyar presents grave concerns and consequences, and a major conflict of interest for transparency, integrity and whistleblowers. Another ex-NSA employee and whistleblower Russel Tice stated that he would have been outraged and highly vocal if he were in Edward Snowden’s shoes. He said that forming a lucrative business partnership with entities who have direct conflicts of interest would not have been acceptable. Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, stated that Omidyar goes several times to the White House each year, has extensive connections with George Soros, and has quite a different view about what journalism entails than Glenn Greenwald. He pointed out that Omidyar said in 2009, that if someone gave him a leak from a commercial organization, not from the government, then he would feel it was his duty to tell the police. Therefore Assange pointed out that that is a “very different type of journalism standard that comes from Pierre Omidyar. And unfortunately, some of that, or perhaps a significant amount of it, has gone into First Look and created some constraints there.

    By the way, a site you maybe would like to check out (if you haven’t already) is: http://cryptome.org/

  6. So what is it with Omidyar? Here in Hawaii he has set up ‘Civil Beat’, his neo-liberal, ‘controlled opposition’ digital newspaper, is doing a mega development in little Hanalei (Kauai) to service the super rich, and is financing a new huge dairy in Poipu (south coast of Kauai) near the ocean, on marginal land, next to this growing tourist enclave. This makes no financial sense. What is this guy up to? We are all scratching our heads over here.

  7. Doesn’t anyone think This smells?

    Since when do the self-righteous refer to themselves with a pejorative like “the current regime”?

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