Within the State Department, a Silicon Valley veteran has quietly launched an improbable new initiative to annoy, frustrate and humiliate denizens of online extremist forums. It’s so new that it hasn’t fully taken shape: Even its architects concede it hasn’t fleshed out an actual strategy yet, and accordingly can’t point to any results it’s yielded. Its annual budget is a rounding error. The Pentagon will spend more in Afghanistan in the time it takes you to finish reading this sentence. But it also represents, in the mind of its creator, a chance to discourage impressionable youth from becoming terrorists — all in an idiom they firmly understand. And if it actually works, it might stand a chance of cutting off al-Qaida’s ability to replenish its ranks at a time when it looks to be reeling. The program, called Viral Peace, seeks to occupy the virtual space that extremists fill, one thread or Twitter exchange at a time. Shahed Amanullah, a senior technology adviser to the State Department and Viral Peace’s creator, tells Danger Room he wants to use “logic, humor, satire, [and] religious arguments, not just to confront [extremists], but to undermine and demoralize them.” Think of it as strategic trolling, in pursuit of geopolitical pwnage.
Social Media as Strategic Weapon
Originally posted by SyphonX
I have known this for years.
There are a number of posters on ATS alone that do this. Some say they are just being cynical and childish, but they also happen to toe the establishment line with their trolling.
Could you point out those posters for the benefit of the ATS bro'therhood, Bro?
Because we all know about the vast number of impressionable youths turning to terrorism. Because it's been a consistent problem. (sarcasm) How will they know it works if there's no data for comparison?
But it also represents, in the mind of its creator, a chance to discourage impressionable youth from becoming terrorists — all in an idiom they firmly understand. And if it actually works, it might stand a chance of cutting off al-Qaida’s ability to replenish its ranks at a time when it looks to be reeling.
Sunstein co-authored a 2008 paper with Adrian Vermeule, titled "Conspiracy Theories," dealing with the risks and possible government responses to false conspiracy theories resulting from "cascades" of faulty information within groups that may ultimately lead to violence. In this article they wrote, "The existence of both domestic and foreign conspiracy theories, we suggest, is no trivial matter, posing real risks to the government’s antiterrorism policies, whatever the latter may be." They go on to propose that, "the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups", where they suggest, among other tactics, "Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action." They refer, several times, to groups that promote the view that the US Government was responsible or complicit in the September 11 attacks as "extremist groups." They also suggest responses: "We can readily imagine a series of possible responses. (1) Government might ban conspiracy theorizing. (2) Government might impose some kind of tax, financial or otherwise, on those who disseminate such theories
On this sleepy Saturday in August we are having what is, by all appearances, a classic slow news weekend. But one news story of note is Cass Sunstein’s resignation as White House overseer of regulation. No reason was given for his departure.