US Invests in Fake Social Media Propaganda

By Sajid Farooq
|  Friday, Mar 18, 2011  |  Updated 10:00 AM PDT
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US Invests in Fake Social Media Propaganda

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President Barack Obama has been called the most digital president in American history.

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Just how important is social media to shaping the future of the Middle East? Important enough for the US government to lie about it.

The US military has hired a California company to help it develop and manage false online personalities to engage with social media users in foreign countries, according to the London Guardiann.

Centcom Spokesman Bill Speaks told the newspaper that known of the "sock puppet" accounts will be in English -- because that would be illegal to engage with American users -- and none of the fake accounts will be on popular Bay Area-based social networking sites Facebook and Twitter.

Instead the accounts will operate in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and Pashto -- all languages spoken in the Middle East, South Asia, Afghanistan and Iran.

Perhaps the most surprising part of the announcement is that it is believed to be part of a larger $200 million program that has been in place for some time and used against potential American threats in the Middle East.

The program is suppose to allow US operatives working near a base in Tampa, Florida to run multiple accounts from their desk to help shape and engage conversation and debate overseas.

The move comes as the US State Department has also ramped up its efforts to engage with the Middle East through social media.

The State Department has recently launched Farsi and Arabic only Twitter feeds, while the Obama administration has promised to fund foreign startups that promote digital dissent.

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