by Des Pensable (c) 2015
“The British Army will revive one of the most contentious special forces units of the second world war, the Chindits, as a new generation of “Facebook” warriors who will wage complex and covert information and subversion campaigns. As many as 1,500 troops will make up the reincarnated 77th Brigade, which is due to come into active service in April, the army said.” stated the Financial Times but what it didn’t say was against who these brave troll troopers would be fighting.
So why is the government setting up a military based cyber warfare dirty tactics unit?
Dr Tim Stevens of Kings College London, who studies cyberwar and strategy is quoted in the Guardian as saying “The current furore over inter-state cyberwar is probably not where the game’s at. What is far more likely is that states will seek to influence their own populations and others through so-called ‘cyber’ methods, which basically means the internet and the device du jour, currently smartphones and tablets.”
Well it seems that social media has changed the whole game of governing the UK population. The threat to the UK is no longer perceived to be from foreign sources but from within the British population itself. The same applies in the USA.
Social media has changed the game. Information and ideas can spread very quickly. Through Face book Twitter and the other forms of social media, any individual can communicate with potentially large numbers of others. This is of course is a problem when they start forming special interest and activist groups that might interfere with government or commercial interests.
The obvious threats to the government and commercial interests are the massive environmental campaigns against coal seam gas mining; the resistance to the TTIP / TPP; and the movements demanding action on Global Warming.
The press about the social media being used to successfully organise the removal of repressive authoritarian governments in what has been termed the Arab Spring has also got the British, the USA and other western governments deeply concerned. Both Western and Eastern governments are beginning to fear social media.
The response in the USA, Britain and Europe has been to offer funding to university Social Science and Psychology departments to study the social behaviour and interaction of people and groups on the social media. However this has taken a nasty turn to the dark side.
“Cyber warfare of the future may be less about hacking electrical power grids and more about hacking minds by shaping the environment in which political debate takes place,” said Dr Stevens
The current research is on how to control and subvert the behaviour and emotions of individuals and groups on social media that might have differing opinions to the prevailing government policy. This work is creating real dangers to our western democratic concepts of privacy, freedom and free speech.
For example, there are a number of social media analysis programs such as sentiment analysis which determines whether people have positive or negative opinions on virtually any topic. Other studies have been carried out on how to control and change people’s emotions and even how to use small programs pretending to be humans called bots that can seek out, befriend and coerce individuals. These combined with metadata collected by government and commercial sources enable individuals and groups to be readily profiled and targeted.
The USA seems more paranoid than other countries. “The Minerva project paid Cornel University researchers to find out when social movements reach a “critical mass” of people – a “tipping point” at which they become a threat to the powers-that-be. In the language of “terrorism studies,” the human beings involved in these social movements are “contagions,” as in vectors of disease . Neutralizing them becomes a job for “war fighters.”
Data released by Edward Snowden showed that the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand had access to “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations.” which was a training program designed to train troll troopers on how to identify individuals and organisations considered to be extremists, then target, infiltrate and disrupt them by any means (legal or otherwise).
A USA company has created a program that allows a single troll trooper to control up to 10 false identities allowing the British unit of 1500 troopers to have the presence of 15,000 troll troopers all dedicated to mayhem on the British and presumably European Social media.
If that’s not bad enough Edward Snowden recently released information that the USA and British government spy agencies have stolen a billion commercial SIM encryption keys to mobile cell phones enabling them to circumvent any country’s privacy laws and listen to virtually any conversation at any time and you have a serious problem for not only civilian use of social media but also unions and political opposition parties as well. (see also here and here).
Britain has shown how easy it is for a democratic / oligarchic country to define any environmental activist group such as an anti CSG mining or Global Warming mitigation group as an extremist group. They can then be targeted by every level of government police and security agency and treated as if they were terrorists rather than citizens exerting their rights to object to destructive environmental laws and practices.
It’s no secret that the social media in Australia is very politically active. It was used extensively by the Rudd Labor government. The Victorian LNP government were worried about its influence before they were recently defeated.
It’s also arguable that the massive anti Newman government social media campaign to save the Great Barrier Reef and stop the proposed Galilea basin coal mines carried out jointly by the Greens and a consortium of environmental activist groups made a significant difference in the recent Queensland election winning the election for a surprised Labor.
If we consider that the Abbot government has a very negative attitude towards Global Warming and the environment ; the PM believes that Global Warming is “crap” and is in favour of selling more coal to the world even though the world is taking urgent measures to reduce carbon emissions at Paris this year.
If we also consider that the Abbot government likes military posturing as it has appointed a military general in charge of the operation to stop the asylum seeker boats; it has ordered new air force planes, new submarines and drones to protect Australia; it has threatened to “shirtfront” President Putin of Russia; joined the war against ISIS ; introduced extreme anti terrorist laws in Australia and is going down the road towards militarization of Global Warming and pathological authoritarianism.
The question then is not will but when will the right wing Abbot government form a unit of Aussie troll troopers to harass green groups on Australian social media. How will we know, as the Australian government has introduced such extreme terrorist laws that any information about such a unit will surely be classified as secret.
The whole concept of any country using military troll troopers in peace time to target its own citizens is totally immoral and anti-democratic. How will Aussie diggers accept the political role of carrying out covert psychological operations against Aussie citizens especially those trying to help mitigate a world Global Warming disaster? That remains to be seen.
Its times like these that Australia really needs a Charter of Human Rights and a sane clear thinking stable government that cares for Australians like you and me.
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Be sure to watch this video about metadata.
Read more articles by Des Pensable.