The Pentagon is planning to use social networking sites to tackle threats such as cyberterrorism and to identify where a major event like the Arab revolutions might next take place, reports in the US say.
The US department of defence is offering $42m (£25m) to fund research into monitoring social networks to track the formation, development and spread of ideas, and identify misinformation and attempts to foment unrest. The move by Darpa, the defence advanced research projects agency, comes in the wake of use of social networks by insurgents inAfghanistan and Iraq and by home-grown threats such as Anonymous. Darpa did not respond to requests for comment from the New York Times.
Darpa is also seeking to identify people involved in such activity, what their intentions are and the impact of online campaigns to shape opinions or gather support on an issue, according to a document presented at the offices of the military contractor System Planning Corporation.
US efforts to monitor or manipulate social media have generally focused on non-US-language operations in the Middle East. However, other online groups are starting to be classified as threats by wings of the military. The new proposals also seek to further efforts by the US government to automatically generate social media content through fake accounts, or bots. In March this year it was reported that US Central Command (Centcom) had awarded a contract to develop software that generates so-called “sock puppet” accounts – fake identities used to promote a particular view while hiding the user’s true identity.
Internet commentator Jeff Jarvis dismissed previous efforts at implement such technologies as “appalling and amusing”.