Fox News Swayed Public Opinion Using Online Sock Puppets
There's a strange subterranean world where Fox News and military intelligence meets, and that's in the comments section.
Utilizing something called sock puppets — fake social media or Internet personas — Fox's public relations specialists were allegedly expected to counter "negative" or "even neutral" commentary on posts about the network, NPR media reporter David Folkenflik claims in his forthcoming book, "Murdoch's World."
They even reportedly used common counterintelligence tactics in order to mask their cyber footsteps.
Liberal Media watchdog Media Matters highlighted one paragraph in particular that sums up the practice:
"One former staffer recalled using twenty different aliases to post pro-Fox rants. Another had one hundred. Several employees had to acquire a cell phone thumb drive to provide a wireless broadband connection that could not be traced back to a Fox News or News Corp account. Another used an AOL dial-up connection, even in the age of widespread broadband access, on the rationale it would be harder to pinpoint its origins. Old laptops were distributed for these cyber operations. Even blogs with minor followings were reviewed to ensure no claim went unchecked."
Oddly enough, the Air Force contracted HBGary Federal to develop a more sophisticated tool that would allow military intelligence operatives to manipulate several fake personas simultaneously. The tool was used in order gather intel on potential terrorists, but also, like Fox, to sway public opinion in (albeit it foreign) online communities.
Take note, that is probably the first time that Fox News, the Air Force, the NYPD, and the Taliban all occupy the same subset of company SOP.
Hopefully it's the last.