When I was a young Internet attorney, there was a movie called “Wag the Dog.”
As you can see in the trailer below, in the movie, actor Robert De Niro’s character manipulates the public for the U.S. President by creating a fake war using film footage shot by a Hollywood producer.
The media reports the “war” as if it actually exists, spinning public opinion to support the President. Yet another blurring of the line between art and reality.
The U.S. government is now apparently about to wag the social media dog in real life.
Here’s how it works…
A government contractor will provide the servers in exchange for almost 3 million bucks. And up to 50 members of the military will each create 10 or so fake (sock puppet) identities to use to manipulate social media conversations for a pro-U.S. slant on things like the “War on Terrorism.”
Who decides what the socket puppets say or who they impersonate? If you’re harmed by interacting with one of these fake identities, chances are your Internet attorney won’t be able to do a thing for you because the government has sovereign immunity.
And where’s the firewall between psychological warfare against jihadists, for example, and using the same sock puppets to astro-turf fake public support for a political cause or even a candidate for election?
This is dangerous territory for any government to dabble in…and more risky if you tried to do the same thing. If you set up sock puppets to manipulate and deceive people online, you could be arrested or sued because of it. Before even considering wagging the social media dog for fun or profit, talk it over with your Internet attorney first.
And be cautious when a Facebook “friend” or a tweet makes a claim about something important to you. Verify before you act.
To your online success!
-Mike the Internet Attorney