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- Disinformation in the truth movement and its purpose:

1. to mislead those listening to it

2. to discredit the bulk of information that is true to the masses

3. to discredit those that repeat it


A shill, also called a plant or a stooge, is a person who publicly helps or gives credibility to a
person or organization without disclosing that they have a close relationship with the person or
organization. Shills can carry out their operations in the areas of media, journalism, marketing,
confidence games, or other business areas. A shill may also act to discredit opponents or critics
of the person or organization in which they have a vested interest through character
assassination or other means.

In most uses, shill refers to someone who purposely gives onlookers, participants or "marks" the
impression of an enthusiastic customer independent of the seller, marketer or con artist, for
whom they are secretly working. The person or group in league with the shill relies on crowd
psychology to encourage other onlookers or audience members to do business with the seller or
accept the ideas they are promoting. Shills may be employed by salespeople and professional
marketing campaigns. Plant and stooge more commonly refer to a person who is secretly in
league with another person or outside organization while pretending to be neutral or a part of
the organization in which they are planted, such as a magician's audience, a political party, or an
intelligence organization (see double agent).[citation needed]

Shilling is illegal in many circumstances and in many jurisdictions[1] because of the potential for
fraud and damage; however, if a shill does not place uninformed parties at a risk of loss, but
merely generates "buzz," the shill's actions may be legal. For example, a person planted in an
audience to laugh and applaud when desired (see claque), or to participate in on-stage activities
as a "random member of the audience," is a type of legal shill.[citation needed] Shill can also be
used pejoratively to describe a critic who appears either all-too-eager to heap glowing praise
upon mediocre offerings, or who acts as an apologist for glaring flaws.

In online discussion media, satisfied consumers or "innocent" parties may express specific
opinions in order to further the interests of an organization in which they have an interest, such
as a commercial vendor or special interest group. In academia, this is called opinion spamming.
[4] Web sites can also be set up for the same purpose. For example, an employee of a company
that produces a specific product might praise the product anonymously in a discussion forum or
group in order to generate interest in that product, service, or group. In addition, some shills use
"sock puppetry", where they sign on as one user soliciting recommendations for a specific
product or service. They then sign on as a different user pretending to be a satisfied customer of
a specific company.[citation needed]

In some jurisdictions and circumstances, this type of activity may be illegal. In addition,
reputable organizations may prohibit their employees and other interested parties (contractors,
agents, etc.) from participating in public forums or discussion groups in which a conflict of
interest might arise, or will at least insist that their employees and agents refrain from
participating in any way that might create a conflict of interest. For example, the plastic surgery
company Lifestyle Lift ordered their employees to post fake positive reviews on websites. As a
result, they were sued, and ordered to pay $300,000 in damages by the New York Attorney
General's office.[5]


Both the illegal and legal gambling industries often use shills to make winning at games appear
more likely than it actually is. For example, illegal three-card monte and shell-game peddlers are
notorious employers of shills. These shills also often aid in cheating, disrupting the game if the
mark is likely to win. In a legal casino, however, a shill is sometimes a gambler who plays using
the casino's money in order to keep games (especially poker) going when there are not enough
players. The title of one of Erle Stanley Gardner's mystery novels, Shills Can't Cash Chips, is
derived from this type of shill. This is different from "proposition players" who are paid a salary
by the casino for the same purpose, but bet with their own money.


See also: Astroturfing

In marketing, shills are often employed to assume the air of satisfied customers and give
testimonials to the merits of a given product. This type of shilling is illegal in some jurisdictions
but almost impossible to detect. It may be considered a form of unjust enrichment or unfair
competition, as in California's Business & Professions Code § 17200, which prohibits any "unfair
or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising."


Shills, or "potted plants", are sometimes employed in auctions. Driving prices up with phony
bids, they seek to provoke a bidding war among other participants. Often they are told by the
seller precisely how high to bid, as the seller actually pays the price (to himself, of course) if the
item does not sell, losing only the auction fees. Shilling has a substantially higher rate of
occurrence in online auctions, where any user with multiple accounts can bid on their own
items. One detailed example of this has been documented in online auctions for used cars.[6]
Many online auction sites employ sophisticated (and usually secret) methods to detect collusion.
The online auction site eBay forbids shilling; its rules do not allow friends or employees of a
person selling an item to bid on the item,[7] even though eBay has no means to detect if a
bidder is related to a seller or is in fact the seller.

In his book Fake: Forgery, Lies, & eBay, Kenneth Walton describes how he and his cohorts placed
shill bids on hundreds of eBay auctions over the course of a year. Walton and his associates were
charged and convicted of fraud by the United States Attorney for their eBay shill bidding.[8]

With the proliferation of live online auctions in recent years, shill bidding has become
commonplace.[citation needed] Some websites allow shill bidding by participating auctioneers.
These auctioneers are able to see bids placed in real time and can then place counter bids to
increase the amount. One proxibid auctioneers' website states, "At the request of the auction
company, this auction permits bids to be placed by the seller or on the seller's behalf, even if
such bids are placed solely for the purpose of increasing the bid."[9]

The term can applied to journalists, commentators, and media outlets, who have vested
interests in or associations with parties, and report in a way favorable to those interests. The
term is often used by antiestablishment figures to denounce the media.

Research and experiments

A shill in a psychology experiment, or the like, is called a '"confederate". In Stanley Milgram's

experiment in which the subjects witnessed people getting electric shocks, a confederate would
pretend to be one of the experimental subjects who would receive the fake shocks, so that the
real experimental subject would think that a draw of names from a hat was random. The
confederate would always play the role of the learner, and the subject would be the teacher, and
the subject would think that this was a random draw from a hat containing papers that say
"learner" and "teacher."

In performance art, such as DECONference (Decontamination Conference), the confederates

were called "deconfederates". When a large group of DECONference attendees were asked to
remove all clothing prior to entry to the event, the deconfederates, planted among the
attendees, would comply immediately with the request, causing all of the others to follow the
orders and disrobe as well.[10


Police or military interrogators sometimes use undercover agents (called "plants") to assist with
the interrogation of an individual or suspect. The plant can pose as a fellow inmate or internee,
build a rapport and earn the confidence of the interviewee. The plant may subtly suggest that
telling the interrogators what they want to know is the sensible or right thing to do. Even if no
outright confessions are obtained, minor details and discrepancies that come out in supposedly
innocent conversation can be used to chip away at the interviewee. Some plants are in reality
inmates or prisoners of war who have been promised better treatment and conditions in return
for helping with the interrogation; the character played by William Hurt in the film Kiss of the
Spider Woman is an example of this. One notorious UK case is that of Colin Stagg, a man who
was falsely accused of the murder of Rachel Nickell, in which a female police officer posed as a
potential love interest to try to tempt Stagg to implicate himself.[11]

Related concepts

Puppet government

Puppet, vassal, quisling, or satellite states have been routinely used in exercises of foreign policy
to give weight to the arguments of the country that controls them. Examples of this include the
USSR's use of its satellites in the United Nations during the Cold War. These states are also used
to give the impression of legitimacy to domestic policies that are ultimately harmful to the
population they control, while beneficial to the government that controls them.

Even outside the spectrum of sovereign powers many multiparty democratic systems give
foreign powers the capacity to influence political discourse through shills and pseudo sock-
puppets. Thanks to the reliance of many political parties on external sources of revenue for
campaigns it can be easy for a government or business to either choose which party it funds or
to outright create one. This way they can either choose to support existing minority voices that
echo their views or form their own, using their funds and usually semi-covert influence to make
them a more prominent voice.

Another concept in foreign policy is seen in sovereign alliances. In these instances, an allied
country acts on behalf of another's interests so that it appears that the original power does not
want to get involved. This is useful in situations where there is little public support in the original
country for the actions. This type of collusion is typically practiced between countries that share
common goals and are capable of returning favours. An example of this may be Cuba's role
during the Cold War, in sending active combat troops to wars in Africa when it was unpalatable
for the USSR to do so.

Undercover operations

During covert operations or police investigations agents may routinely claim to be of political
views or a part of an organisation in order to gain the confidence of the people they wish to
surveil. Sometimes this goes further with the agents participating in acts on behalf of the
organisations they infiltrate or falsely represent as was the case during the Operations like Gladio
and Chaos. Often the end goal is not just to gain information about the organisation but to
discredit them in the eyes of the public. However, these kinds of actions are more similar to false
flag operations than typical undercover operations. In other examples, operatives may act in a
manner they deem positive to assist an organisation to which they cannot have overt ties.


A claque is an organized body of professional applauders in French theatres and opera houses.
Members of a claque are called claqueurs.

Hiring people to applaud dramatic performances was common in classical times. For example,
when the Emperor Nero acted, he had his performance greeted by an encomium chanted by five
thousand of his soldiers.[1]

This inspired the 16th-century French poet Jean Daurat to develop the modern claque. Buying a
number of tickets for a performance of one of his plays, he gave them away in return for a
promise of applause. In 1820 claques underwent serious systematization when an agency in
Paris opened to manage and supply claqueurs.

By 1830 the claque had become an institution. The manager of a theatre or opera house was
able to send an order for any number of claqueurs. These were usually under a chef de claque
(leader of applause), who judged where the efforts of the claqueurs were needed and to initiate
the demonstration of approval. This could take several forms. There would be commissaires
("officers/commissioner") who learned the piece by heart and called the attention of their
neighbors to its good points between the acts. Rieurs (laughers) laughed loudly at the jokes.
Pleureurs (criers), generally women, feigned tears, by holding their handkerchiefs to their eyes.
Chatouilleurs (ticklers) kept the audience in a good humor, while bisseurs (encore-ers) simply
clapped and cried "Bis! Bis!" to request encores.[1]

The practice spread to Italy (famously at La Scala, Milan), Vienna, London (Covent Garden) and
New York (the Metropolitan Opera). Claques were also used as a form of extortion, as singers
were commonly contacted by the chef de claque before their debut and forced to pay a fee, in
order not to get booed.

Donald Trump Campaign Offered Actors $50 to Cheer for Him at Presidential Announcement


Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political,
advertising, religious or public relations) to make it appear as though it originates from and is
supported by a grassroots participant(s). It is a practice intended to give the statements or
organizations credibility by withholding information about the source's financial connection. The
term astroturfing is derived from AstroTurf, a brand of synthetic carpeting designed to resemble
natural grass, as a play on the word "grassroots." The implication behind the use of the term is
that there are no "true" or "natural" grassroots, but rather "fake" or "artificial" support, although
some astroturfing operatives defend the practice


In political science, it is defined as the process of seeking electoral victory or legislative relief for
grievances by helping political actors find and mobilize a sympathetic public, and is designed to
create the image of public consensus where there is none.[1][2] Astroturfing is the use of fake
grassroots efforts that primarily focus on influencing public opinion and typically are funded by
corporations and governmental entities to form opinions.[3] On the Internet, astroturfers use
software to mask their identity. Sometimes one individual operates through many personas to
give the impression of widespread support for their client's agenda.[4][5] Some studies suggest
astroturfing can alter public viewpoints and create enough doubt to inhibit action.[6] In the first
systematic study of astroturfing in the United States, Oxford Professor Philip N. Howard argued
that the internet was making it much easier for powerful lobbyists and conservative political
movements to activate small groups of aggrieved citizens to have an exaggerated importance in
public policy debates.[2]


Use of one or more front groups is one astroturfing technique. These groups typically present
themselves as serving the public interest, while actually working on behalf of a corporate or
political sponsor.[23] Front groups may resist legislation and scientific consensus that is
damaging to the sponsor's business by emphasizing minority viewpoints, instilling doubt and
publishing counterclaims by corporate-sponsored experts.[3] Fake blogs can also be created that
appear to be written by consumers, while actually being operated by a commercial or political
interest.[24] Some political movements have provided incentives for members of the public to
send a letter to the editor at their local paper, often using a copy and paste form letter that is
published in dozens of newspapers verbatim.[25]

Another technique is the use of sockpuppets, where a single person creates multiple identities
online to give the appearance of grassroots support. Sockpuppets may post positive reviews
about a product, attack participants that criticize the organization, or post negative reviews and
comments about competitors, under fake identities.[15][26] Astroturfing businesses may pay
staff based on the number of posts they make that are not flagged by moderators.[21] Persona
management software may be used so that each paid poster can manage five to seventy
convincing online personas without getting them confused.[22][27]

Pharmaceutical companies may sponsor patient support groups and simultaneously push them
to help market their products.[28] Bloggers who receive free products, paid travel or other
accommodations may also be considered astroturfing if those gifts are not disclosed to the
reader.[29] Analysts could be considered astroturfing, since they often cover their own clients
without disclosing their financial connection. To avoid astroturfing, many organizations and press
have policies about gifts, accommodations and disclosures.[30]


Persona management software can age accounts and simulate the activity of attending a
conference automatically to make it more convincing that they are genuine.[31] At HBGary,
employees are given separate thumb drives that contain online accounts for individual identities
and visual cues to remind the employee which identity they are using at the time.[31]

Mass letters may be printed on personalized stationery using different typefaces, colors and
words to make them appear personal.[32]

According to an article in The New York Times, the Federal Trade Commission rarely enforces its
astroturfing laws.[14] However, astroturfing operations are frequently detected if their profile
images are recognized[33] or if they are identified through the usage patterns of their accounts.
[21] Filippo Menczer's group at Indiana University developed software in 2010 that detects
astroturfing on Twitter by recognizing behavioral patterns.

History of incidents


Although the term "astroturfing" was not yet developed, an early example of the practice was in
Act 1, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar. In the play, Cassius writes fake letters from
"the public" to convince Brutus to assassinate Caesar.[12] In the early 1900s disposable cup
vendor Dixie Cups convinced travelers to avoid public drinking cups found in trains and shops
through a pamphlet called The Cup Campaigner.[38] The pamphlet warned that public drinking
cups could spread disease and did not disclose that the message was commercially motivated.
[28] The term "astroturfing" was first coined in 1985 by then-US Senator Lloyd Bentsen (D–Texas)
when he said, "a fellow from Texas can tell the difference between grass roots and AstroTurf...
this is generated mail."[12][39] Bentsen was describing a "mountain of cards and letters" sent to
his office to promote insurance industry interests.[40]


As health advocates began winning legislation to raise taxes and increase regulation of smoking
in the US, Philip Morris, Burson-Marsteller and other tobacco interests created the National
Smokers Alliance (NSA) in 1993. The NSA and other tobacco interests initiated an aggressive
public relations campaign from 1994 to 1999 in an effort to exaggerate the appearance of
grassroots support for smoker's rights. According to an article in the Journal of Health
Communication, the NSA had mixed success at defeating bills that were damaging revenues of
tobacco interests.[41]


Email, automated phone calls, form letters, and the Internet made astroturfing more economical
and prolific in the late 1990s.[22][39] In 2001, as Microsoft was defending itself against an
antitrust lawsuit, Americans for Technology Leadership (ATL), a group heavily funded by
Microsoft, initiated a letter-writing campaign. ATL contacted constituents under the guise of
conducting a poll and sent pro-Microsoft consumers form and sample letters to send to involved
lawmakers. The effort was designed to make it appear as though there was public support for a
sympathetic ruling in the antitrust lawsuit.[32][42]


In 2009/10, an Indiana University research study developed a software system to detect

astroturfing in the Twitter stream. "Some of these cases caught the attention of the popular
press due to the sensitivity of the topic in the run up to the 2010 U.S. midterm political elections,
and subsequently many of the accounts involved were suspended by Twitter." The study cited a
limited number of examples, all promoting conservative policies and candidates.[34][35][36]

In 2003, offered the site's users "points" that could be redeemed for
products if they signed a form letter promoting George Bush and got a local paper to publish it
as a letter to the editor. More than 100 newspapers published an identical letter to the editor
from the site with different signatures on it. Similar campaigns were used by,
and by to promote Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11.[25][43] The Committee
for a Responsible Federal Budget's "Fix the Debt" campaign advocated to reduce government
debt without disclosing that its members were lobbyists or high-ranking employees at
corporations that aim to reduce federal spending.[44][45] It also sent op-eds to various students
that were published as-is.[46]

Many organizations in the Tea Party movement are astroturfed, with direct connections to right-
wing think tanks and lobbying organizations, and their activities controlled by wealthy
supporters or the GOP.[47]


Corporate efforts to mobilize the public against environmental regulation accelerated in the US
following the election of president Barack Obama.[48]

Russia has recently been accused of using astroturf tactics to drum up anti-fracking sentiment
across Europe and the West in order to maintain dominance in oil exports through Ukraine.[49]


In 2006, two Edelman employees created a blog called "Wal-Marting Across America" about two
people traveling to Wal-Marts across the country. The blog gave the appearance of being
operated by spontaneous consumers, but was actually operated on behalf of Working Families
for Walmart, a group funded by Wal-Mart.[50][51] In 2007, deployed an anti-Google
advertising campaign portraying Google as an "information monopoly" that was damaging the
Internet. The ad was designed to give the appearance of a popular movement and didn't
disclose it was funded by a competitor.[52]

In 2010, the Federal Trade Commission settled a complaint with Reverb Communications, who
was using interns to post favorable product reviews in Apple's iTunes store for clients.[53] In
September 2012, one of the first major identified case of astroturfing in Finland involved
criticisms about the cost of a €1.8 billion patient information system, which was defended by
fake online identities operated by involved vendors.[33][54]

In September 2013, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced a settlement
with 19 companies to prevent astroturfing. "'Astroturfing' is the 21st century's version of false
advertising, and prosecutors have many tools at their disposal to put an end to it," said
Scheiderman. The companies paid $350,000 to settle the matter, but the settlement opened the
way for private suits as well. "Every state has some version of the statutes New York used,"
according to lawyer Kelly H. Kolb. "What the New York attorney general has done is, perhaps, to
have given private lawyers a road map to file suit."[55][56]


An Al Jazeera four part mini-series documented Israel's attempt to promote more friendly, pro-
Israel rhetoric to influence the attitudes of British youth, namely through influencing already
established political bodies, such as the National Union of Students and the Labour Party, or
through the creation of other bodies not directly affiliated with the Israeli administration.[57]

In 2008, an expert on Chinese affairs, Rebecca MacKinnon, estimated the country employed
280,000 in a government-sponsored astroturfing operation to post pro-China propaganda and
drown out voices of dissent.[21][58]

In June 2010, the United States Air Force solicited for "persona management" software that
would "enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same
workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be
able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional
online services and social media platforms..."[59] The $2.6 million contract was awarded to
Ntrepid Corporation for astroturfing software the military would use to spread pro-American
propaganda in the Middle East, and disrupt extremist propaganda and recruitment.[22][60][61]

Operation Earnest Voice
Operation Earnest Voice is an astroturfing campaign by the US government.[1] The aim of the
initiative is to use sockpuppets to spread pro-American propaganda on social networking sites
based outside of the US.[2][3][4][5] The campaign is operated by the United States Military
Central Command (CENTCOM).

According to CENTCOM, the US-based Facebook and Twitter networks are not targeted by the
program because US laws prohibit US state agencies from spreading propaganda among US
citizens as according to the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012.[6] However, according to
the Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, dissemination of foreign propaganda to domestic
audiences is expressly allowed over the internet including social media networks.[7] Isaac R.
Porche, a researcher at the RAND corporation, claims it would not be easy to exclude US
audiences when dealing with internet communications.[5]


Since 9/11 and the appearance of greater media fluidity, propaganda institutions, practices and
legal frameworks have been evolving in the US and Britain. Dr Emma Louise Briant shows how
this included expansion and integration of the apparatus cross-government and details attempts
to coordinate the forms of propaganda for foreign and domestic audiences, with new efforts in
strategic communication.[18] These were subject to contestation within the US Government,
resisted by Pentagon Public Affairs and critiqued by some scholars.[19] The National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (section 1078 (a)) amended the US Information and
Educational Exchange Act of 1948 (popularly referred to as the Smith-Mundt Act) and the
Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1987, allowing for materials produced by the State
Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be released within U.S. borders
for the Archivist of the United States.

The Smith-Mundt Act, as amended, provided that “the Secretary and the Broadcasting Board of
Governors shall make available to the Archivist of the United States, for domestic distribution,
motion pictures, films, videotapes, and other material 12 years after the initial dissemination of
the material abroad (...) Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit the Department of
State or the Broadcasting Board of Governors from engaging in any medium or form of
communication, either directly or indirectly, because a United States domestic audience is or
may be thereby exposed to program material, or based on a presumption of such exposure.”
Public concerns were raised upon passage due to the relaxation of prohibitions of domestic
propaganda in the United States.

This legalized the use of propaganda by the U.S. government within our own country.


Details of the program

The US government signed a $2.8 million contract with the Ntrepid web-security company to
develop a specialized software, allowing agents of the government to post propaganda on
"foreign-language websites".[2]

Main characteristics of the software, as stated in the software development request, are:

50 user "operator" licenses, 10 sockpuppets controllable by each user.[3]

Sockpuppets are to be "replete with background, history, supporting details, and cyber
presences that are technically, culturally and geographically consistent". Sockpuppets are to "be
able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world." [3]

A special secure VPN, allowing sockpuppets to appear to be posting from "randomly selected
IP addresses," in order to "hide the existence of the operation."[8]

50 static IP addresses to enable government agencies to "manage their persistent online

personas," with identities of government and enterprise organizations protected which will allow
for different state agents to use the same sockpuppet, and easily switch between different
sockpuppets to "look like ordinary users as opposed to one organization."[8]

9 private servers, "based on the geographic area of operations the customer is operating
within and which allow a customer's online persona(s) to appear to originate from." These
servers should use commercial hosting centers around the world.[8]

Virtual machine environments, deleted after each session termination, to avoid interaction
with "any virus, worm, or malicious software."[8


A sockpuppet is an online identity used for purposes of deception. The term, a reference to the
manipulation of a simple hand puppet made from a sock, originally referred to a false identity
assumed by a member of an Internet community who spoke to, or about, themselves while
pretending to be another person.[1]

The term now includes other misleading uses of online identities, such as those created to
praise, defend or support a person or organization,[2] to manipulate public opinion,[3] or to
circumvent a suspension or ban from a website. A significant difference between the use of a
pseudonym[4] and the creation of a sockpuppet is that the sockpuppet poses as an independent
third-party unaffiliated with the puppeteer. Sockpuppets are unwelcome in many online
communities and may be blocked.


The term "sockpuppet" was used as early as July 9, 1993,[5] but did not become common in
USENET groups until 1996. The first Oxford English Dictionary example of the term, defined as "a
person whose actions are controlled by another; a minion," is taken from U.S. News and World
Report, March 27, 2000.[6]

The history of reviewing one's own work under another name predates the Internet. Walt
Whitman and Anthony Burgess both reviewed their books under pseudonyms.[7] Another
notable example was Benjamin Franklin.[8]

On October 21, 2013 the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) condemned paid advocacy
sockpuppeting on Wikipedia and, on October 23, specifically banned editing by the public
relations firm Wiki-PR.[9] In August and September 2015 the WMF uncovered another group of
sockpuppets known as Orangemoody. [10]


Ballot stuffing

Sockpuppets may be created during an online poll to submit multiple votes in favor of the
puppeteer. A related usage is the creation of multiple identities, each supporting the puppeteer's
views in an argument, attempting to position the puppeteer as representing majority opinion
and sideline opposition voices. In the abstract theory of social networks and reputation systems,
this is known as a sybil attack.

A sockpuppet-like use of deceptive fake identities is used in stealth marketing. The stealth
marketer creates one or more pseudonymous accounts, each one claiming to be owned by a
different enthusiastic supporter of the sponsor's product, book or ideology.[11][12]

Strawman sockpuppet

A strawman sockpuppet is a false flag pseudonym created to make a particular point of view look
foolish or unwholesome in order to generate negative sentiment against it. Strawman
sockpuppets typically behave in an unintelligent, uninformed, or bigoted manner and advance
"straw man" arguments that their puppeteers can easily refute. The intended effect is to
discredit more rational arguments made for the same position.[13] Such sockpuppets behave in
a similar manner to Internet trolls.

A particular case is the Concern troll, a false flag pseudonym created by a user whose actual
point of view is opposed to the one that the sockpuppet claims to hold. The concern troll posts
in Web forums devoted to its declared point of view and attempts to sway the group's actions or
opinions while claiming to share their goals, but with professed "concerns". The goal is to sow
fear, uncertainty and doubt (aka FUD) within the group.

Examples of sockpuppetry

Business promotion
In 2007, the CEO of Whole Foods, John Mackey, was discovered to have posted as "Rahodeb" on
the Yahoo Finance Message Board, extolling his own company and predicting a dire future for its
rival, Wild Oats Markets, while concealing his relationship to both companies. Whole Foods
argued that none of Mackey's actions broke the law.[29][30]

During the 2007 trial of Conrad Black, chief executive of Hollinger International, prosecutors
alleged that he had posted messages on a Yahoo Finance chat room using the name "nspector",
attacking short sellers and blaming them for his company's stock performance. Prosecutors
provided evidence of these postings in Black's criminal trial where he was convicted of mail
fraud and obstruction. The postings were raised at multiple points in the trial.[29]

Book and film reviews

An computer glitch in 2004 revealed the names of many authors who had written
reviews of their books using pseudonyms. John Rechy, who wrote the best-selling 1963 novel
City of Night, was one of the more famous authors unmasked in this way, and was shown to have
written numerous five-star reviews of his own work.[7] In 2010, historian Orlando Figes was
found to have written Amazon reviews under the names "orlando-birkbeck" and "historian",
praising his own books and condemning those of fellow historians Rachel Polonsky and Robert
Service. The two sued Figes and won monetary damages.[31][32] During a panel in 2012, UK
fiction writer Stephen Leather admitted using pseudonyms to praise his own books, claiming
that "everyone does it". He spoke of building a "network of characters", some operated by his
friends, who discussed his books and had conversations with him directly.[33] The same year, UK
crime fiction writer RJ Ellory admitted having used a pseudonymous account name to write a
positive review for each of his own novels, and additionally a negative review for two other

David Manning was a fictitious film critic, created by a marketing executive working for Sony
Corporation to give consistently good reviews for releases from Sony subsidiary Columbia
Pictures, which could then be quoted in promotional material.[36]

Blog commentary

American reporter Michael Hiltzik was temporarily suspended from posting to his blog, "The
Golden State," on The Los Angeles Times website after he admitted "posting there, as well as on
other sites, under false names." He used the pseudonyms to attack conservatives such as Hugh
Hewitt and L.A. prosecutor Patrick Frey—who eventually exposed him.[37][38] Hiltzik's blog at
the LA Times was the newspaper's first blog. While suspended from blogging, Hiltzik continued
to write regularly for the newspaper.

Lee Siegel, a writer for The New Republic magazine, was suspended for defending his articles
and blog comments under the user name "Sprezzatura." In one such comment, "Sprezzatura"
defended Siegel's bad reviews of Jon Stewart: "Siegel is brave, brilliant and wittier than Stewart
will ever be."[39][40]
Government sockpuppetry

Main article: State-sponsored Internet propaganda

As an example of state-sponsored Internet sockpuppetry, In 2011, a California company called

Ntrepid was awarded a $2.76 million contract from US Central Command for "online persona
management" operations[41] to create "fake online personas to influence net conversations and
spread US propaganda" in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and Pashto.[41] The activity was part of
Operation Earnest Voice (OEV), a programme first developed in Iraq as a weapon of
psychological warfare.

On September 11, 2014, a number of sockpuppet accounts reported an explosion at a chemical

plant in Louisiana. The reports came on a range of media, including Twitter and YouTube, but US
authorities claimed the entire event to be a hoax. The information was determined by many to
have originated with a Russian government-sponsored sockpuppet management office in Saint
Petersburg, called the Internet Research Agency.[42] Russia was again implicated by the US
intelligence community in 2016 for using paid trolls in the US Election.[43]

The Institute of Economic Affairs claimed in a 2012 paper that the United Kingdom government,
and the EU, fund charities whose purpose is to campaign and lobby for causes the government
supports. In one example 73% of responses to a government consultation were the direct result
of campaigns by alleged "sock puppet" organisations.[44]


How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

What is GCHQ?

Government Communications Headquarters

The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is an intelligence and security

organisation responsible for providing signals intelligence (SIGINT) and information assurance to
the government and armed forces of the United Kingdom.[3] Based in "The Doughnut" in the
suburbs of Cheltenham, GCHQ is the responsibility of the country's Secretary of State for Foreign
and Commonwealth Affairs, but it is not a part of the Foreign Office and its director ranks as a
Permanent Secretary.

GCHQ was originally established after the First World War as the Government Code and Cypher
School (GC&CS) and was known under that name until 1946. During the Second World War it
was located at Bletchley Park, where it was famed for its role in the breaking of the German
Enigma codes. Currently there are two main components of the GCHQ, the Composite Signals
Organisation (CSO), which is responsible for gathering information, and the National Cyber
Security Centre (NCSC), which is responsible for securing the UK's own communications. The
Joint Technical Language Service (JTLS) is a small department and cross-government resource
responsible for mainly technical language support and translation and interpreting services
across government departments. It is co-located with GCHQ for administrative purposes.

In 2013, GCHQ received considerable media attention when the former National Security Agency
contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the agency was in the process of collecting all online
and telephone data in the UK via the Tempora programme. Snowden's revelations began a spate
of ongoing disclosures of global surveillance.

Obama confidant’s spine-chilling proposal

Cass Sunstein wants the government to "cognitively infiltrate" anti-government groups

Monsanto Hired Paid Internet Trolls to Counter Bad Public Image, Lawsuit Claims

The document also alleges that Monsanto hires think thanks to spread information favoring the