The U.S. Military hired a California company to create software that allows one person to control up to 10 different and sophisticated fake online personas.
The Guardian reported today that United States Central Command (Centcom) doesn't plan to use the program domestically. Instead, the paper reports quoting Bill Speaks, Centcom spokesman, the military wants to use it in the Middle East and Asia to "counter violent extremist and enemy propaganda outside the US."
The Guardian adds:
The project has been likened by web experts to China's attempts to control and restrict free speech on the internet. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives.
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".
In a separate piece at the Guardian, Jeff Jarvis, author of What Would Google Do?, called the whole scheme "appallingly stupid." He adds:
"The net result of that will be the diminution, not the enhancement, of American credibility.
"But the effort is amusing as well, for there is absolutely no need to spend millions of dollars to create fake identities online."