Thursday, December 03, 2009

How AstroTurfing Works - Beware Of Fake 'Military ' Commenters

As most regular members of Joshua's Army know, I enabled comment moderation once the site began to become popular. I disliked doing it, but as I explained at the time, I really had little choice.

As blogs and online sources have become increasingly influential, tactics have been developed by partisan hacks to pervert the dialog that is one of the most attractive features on online commenting and interaction for their own political agendas.

The most common one is called 'astroturfing' and was pioneered by none other than President Obama's political consigliere, David Axelrod.It involves monitoring sites and having your operatives pose as legitimate commenters to spam the board, attack opposing viewpoints, abuse and ridicule the writer or opposing commenter and mostly take up the time and bandwidth of anyone who opposes your candidate by forcing them to respond to the attacks or look ridiculous.

Recently, on this thread, we had someone who represented himself as 'Spc. Patricks' , a soldier stationed in Iraq.

I correspond with a lot of both active duty and former military both on and off the site, and I'm always glad to hear from them...and I also never shy away from honest debate. His first two comments were relatively polite if misguided, so I devoted considerable time to giving him an answer, although it became obvious by his second comment that something didn't quite jibe, because he was simply talking past me. His last comment ( which I didn't publish) was pretty much diatribe, Democrat talking points and invective and it was obvious that he wasn't actually responding to any points I made or even really reading what I'd written...pure troll spam.

Here's where it gets good.

Last night I published a piece on ex-SecDef Donald Rumsfeld accusing the President of a 'bald misstatement' because of the references in Obama's West Point Speech to troop requests for Afghanistan that the Bush Administration repeatedly ignored because they were focused on Iraq.

Rumsfeld,who has pretty much kept his mouth shut since he left as SecDef in 2006 said that there were none he was aware of during his tenure, actually challenged the White House to make public any such requests if they exist, and urged Congress to "determine exactly what requests were made, who made them, and where and why in the chain of command they were denied."

White House Spokeshole Robert Gibbs, when asked about what Rumsfeld had said responded, explaining that Obama was actually referring to requests that came in during 2008...although of course, as I pointed out, that would be the responsibility of The Wizard of O's own personal choice for SecDef, Robert Gates!

Lo and behold, this morning I get a comment from someone who signed himself as 'Lt. Maj. Carrol F. Pollet, Director, WHCA, United States Army' with the same general style as 'Spc. Patricks' last unpublished comment and even referencing some of the same talking points.

So I did a little detective work, just for giggles.

This officer actually exists...except that he's a Lt. General and spells his last name 'Pollett'. Now, I knew that an on duty Major General would unlikely to write to me at all because of how the military looks at political involvement and especially using that kind of language, let alone forget his actual rank and how he spelled his last name. So I checked the URL's that the 'Patricks/Pollot ' comments were posted from ( you're never anonymous on the net, even if you sign in that way and the date and time is always listed) and whaddya know -the URL's match!

Our friend, the bogus soldier 'Patricks/Pollot' is in a world of hurt, boys and girls. I contacted General Pollett's office in Arlington VA, and they were quite interested to learn that some retard is impersonating a Major General online. So were the Department of Defense and the FBI, because impersonating an officer is a serious bust, whether you're civilian or military, and one that is almost always prosecuted. And they now have copies of all the comments, together with a record of the matching URLs showing when and where the comments originated.

So the 'Lt. Maj.' may find that he's going to get a bit more of a response than he bargained for.

I'm posting this for one reason, aside from amusement purposes, which is to advise other bloggers to be very wary of anonymous commentators signing themselves as professors, military personnel, law enforcement or 'experts' in any field.

Their scruples match their general level of intelligence, and it's not worth giving them the time and attention they need so desperately that they're willing to lie through their teeth to get it.


Anonymous said...

I had a feeling this guy was bogus.

I hope they arrest him for this crap.

suek said...

"Lt. Maj." ????

Ain't no such...

That's a dead give away right there!

Still...knowing and proving are two different things...

Go Gettum!!

Freedom Fighter said...

The URL's pretty much provide the proof, Sue. Also,what kind of dolt do you have tobe to spell the guy's name wrong you're impersonating? And not know his proper rank?


Pat Patterson said...

O/T-Suek haven't seen you over at Betsy's in a while. What gives? Biddle has a couple of new sock puppets.

suek said...

The registration thing. I understand why she put it in, but it doesn't seem to have had the desired effect. BB is still there - with TV and all their related sock puppets.

I think it was a mistake to move from open commenting - there was more participation even with the stupid trolls. The problem is that she has a real job and can't take the time to delete or moderate comments. She wants the garden without the weeding. I certainly understand, but I find the registrations a problem for some reason. I've registered on other blogs* but the blogger and google registration have caused me problems, so I just gave up. Especially when registration doesn't mean a reduction in troll comments...what's the point?

I still read Betsy's Page daily, but have moved participation to other blogs. _Lots_ of good blogs out there! I've also found that I like to participate in blogs where the author also participates in the comments, by the way.

She could overcome the troll problem, I think, by switching to a blog program that required registration of commenters on _her_ blog so that she could reject a registration, but the general blogger/google registration doesn't do much of anything.

suek said...

Heh. Left a comment explaining my absence at Betsy's, and it seems to have disappeared. Does Joshua moderate? I don't know.

Anyway, Pat...come join the discussion at my new "blog home"...
You'll have to register to comment, but it's a blog registration, not a blogger/google registration. More effective in controlling trolls, I think.

Freedom Fighter said...

Hi Sue,
Yeah, I moderate and if you think for a minute you'll see why.

I was off most of Saturday...sorry I didn't get to your comment quicker.


Anonymous said...

I hope he's just a pawn; tied to a larger group. It would be nice to see some group like Code Pink or the Democratic party get dragged into it. If not - if he is just a wisdom-challenged lone twerp - I hope he gets what's coming to him. I wonder if he's a climatologist by profession.

Freedom Fighter said...