How East Germany's Stasi tried to drive activists insane, and how they resisted

East Germany's secret police, the Stasi, were the most aggressive surveillance force of their day -- at the Stasi's peak, one in 60 East Germans was snitching for the agency. Read the rest

How to find out what Trump's favorite big data machine knows about you

Cambridge Analytica is a dirty, Dementor-focused big data research outfit that provided the analysis and psych profiles that the Trump campaign used in its electioneering; because its parent company is in the UK, it is required (under EU law) to send you its dossier on you for £10. Read the rest

Obama team expected to announce measures to punish Russia for election hacking

If you're concerned about what, if anything, the outgoing presidential administration can do to fight back against Russia hacking the U.S. elections for Trump——stay close to your phones as this lame duck end of the year week rounds up.

Tomorrow, team Obama is rumored to be “announcing a series of measures to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election, including economic sanctions and diplomatic censure.”

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Governments see social media as "a new front in warfare"

Propaganda, psychological warfare, and real-time surveillance were all on the agenda at the Sixth Annual Conference on Social Media Within the Defence and Military Sector. Read the rest

End of the United States' "weaponized anthropology" program

After eight years, the US army's $725 million Human Terrain System, a controversial social science program ostensibly established to help the military understand the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, but criticized as a tool for propaganda and psyops, has ended. At CounterPunch, San José State University anthropology professor Roberto J. González published a fascinating history and critique of the program. From CounterPunch:

HTS supporters frequently claimed that the program would increase cultural understanding between US forces and Iraqis and Afghans–and therefore reduce American and civilian casualties. The program’s leaders insisted that embedded social scientists were delivering sociocultural knowledge to commanders, but the reality was more complex. HTS personnel conducted a range of activities including data collection, intelligence gathering, and psychological operations. In at least one case, an HTS employee supported interrogations in Afghanistan (Weinberger 2011).

The program also served a more insidious function: It became a propaganda tool for convincing the American public–especially those with liberal tendencies–that the US-led occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were benevolent missions in which smart, fresh-faced young college graduates were playing a role. It appeared to demonstrate how US forces were engaged in a kinder, gentler form of occupation. Department of Defense photos portrayed HTS personnel sitting on rugs while drinking tea with Afghan elders, or distributing sweets to euphoric Iraqi children. Here was a war that Americans could feel good about fighting.

"The Rise and Fall of the Human Terrain System"

Human Terrain System (Army.mil)

(photo: Spc. Jason A. Young / Army) Read the rest

GCHQ psychological operations squad targeted Britons for manipulation

The agency used fake accounts to "deter," "promote distrust" and "discredit" in political discussions on social media, uploaded fake book/magazine articles with "incorrect information," hacked websites, and set up fraudulent ecommerce sites.

Social graph of mysterious twitterbots

Terence Eden has mined the social graphs of thousands of mysterious, spammy twitterbots, which may or may not be the same larval spambots I wrote about. Read the rest

What's up with these incredibly prolific twitterbots?

Old, highly-retweeted tweets in which I was @'ed keep getting RT'ed by fake twitterbots whose profile photos, bios and names are randomly composited from other Twitter users; they follow each other and spawn at an alarming rate. Read the rest

UK psyops created N. Irish Satanic Panic during the Troubles

During the 1970s, when Northern Ireland was gripped by near-civil-war, British military intelligence staged the evidence of "black masses" in order to create a Satanism panic among the "superstitious" Irish to discredit the paramilitaries. Read the rest