Almond Activators

Yes, the government pays people to argue with you on the internet.

In March 2011, U.S. Central Command purchased $2.7 million software from San Diego-based Ntrepid as part of operation Earnest Voice. The initiative used sockpuppets to spread pro-American propaganda on social networking services based outside of the US.

The following is a scan of a brochure from 2011, which apparently worked since they scored a contract for nearly $3m from the US Government.

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

  • Fifty user “operator” licenses, 10 sockpuppets controllable by each user.[2]
  • 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.”[2]
  • 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.”[7]
  • Fifty 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.”[7]
  • Nine 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.[7]
  • Virtual machine environments, deleted after each session termination, to avoid interaction with “any virus, worm, or malicious software.”[7]

U.S. Central Command purchased the $2.7 million software from San Diego-based Ntrepid, the same company that markets “Anonymizer,” a popular online tool that lets users hide their identities and locations on the Web. (max coincidence)

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