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COINTELPRO - Techniques for dilution, misdirection and control of internet forums.

There are several techniques used for control and manipulation of an internet forum. Please keep in mind that when we say, “internet forums” it is just an example. These techniques can also be applied to other social media platforms such as Facebook or Google Groups. We will go over each technique, while showing how only a minimal number of operatives are needed to drive the conversation and even eventually, gain control of forums.

Technique #1 - 'FORUM SLIDING'

Forum sliding is a method where posts are kept out of the view or attention of the forum users. If an agent perceives a post to be particularly effective or otherwise critical in nature, it can be quickly removed from public view by 'forum sliding.' In this technique, a number of unrelated posts are added and other off topic threads will also become active, causing the critical post to be buried. Another element an agent may employ is the use of fake accounts to ensure post become buried and to mask an agents tracks, making it appear as if people are interested in the old and/or off-topic posts. This brings the unrelated postings to the top of the forum list, while the critical posting 'slides' down the page and quickly out of public view. Ultimately, if this technique is successfully employed, the critical info or discussion will not be seen or engaged in.

Technique #2 - 'CONSENSUS CRACKING'

Consensus cracking is an highly effective method where an agent will try and introduce easily debunked arguments into a developing narrative related to a group’s efforts surrounding an issue or objective. It can take a fair amount of time to employ a good crack, depending on the vigilance and willingness of the group’s members’ to call bullshit and set the record straight with the facts. To develop a consensus crack, an agent will use their account to create a post that looks legitimate and speaks to a central, critical issue, but has a VERY WEAK PREMISE at its core, neglecting to provide any substantive proof to back the premise of the post. Once this is done, under other accounts they control, otherwise known as “sock-puppets,” a very strong position in favor is slowly introduced..... as postings and replies are added, the “evidence” or disinformation is slowly seeded in. Once many members of the group appear to have reached consensus on this vulnerable premise, then this disinformation might spread accordingly where it can be debunked elsewhere, leaving the overarching issue open to invalidation. In cases where the forum members effectively counter the disinformation with actual facts, sourced by links, the agent might then 'abort' the consensus cracking by initiating a 'forum slide.'

Technique #3 - 'TOPIC DILUTION'

Topic dilution is not only effective in forum sliding, it is also very useful in keeping the forum readers on unrelated and non-productive issues. This is a critical and useful technique to cause a 'RESOURCE BURN.' By implementing this technique to distract and disrupt, the productivity of forum members can be effectively stopped. If a particularly effective topic dilution is employed, forum members will simply slip into a 'gossip mode' or a spiral of uninformed conjecture and opinion. This is a subtle form of “trolling,” that is less argumentative in nature. Agents also employ this technique in order to identify issues that may be used as a wedge later on to splinter the group.

Technique #4 - 'INFORMATION COLLECTION'

Information collection is a core objective of any good agent. This allows the agent to not only build profiles of group members, but also determine the psychological make up of members so future methods may be tailored to “hook” members based upon a members natural disposition. Agents often look for and create situations where a member will say something incriminating so they may use it against them at a later date, either in court or as a means to discredit the member in the eyes of the rest of the group. In this technique an agent may employ a casual 'I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours' posting tactic. For example, an agent may post “what is your weapon of choice? Mine is...” - collecting replies from group members will give the agent an estimate of the types of and numbers of weapons members may have at hand. Or an agent may ask “what is your favorite protest technique?” - gathering such replies gives an agent various methods that the group may utilize so they can be studied and effective methods counter-measures can be developed to stop them.

Technique #5 - 'ANGER TROLLING'

Statistically, there is always a percentage of the forum posters who are more inclined towards violence. To determine who these individuals are, agents will present an image to the forum to deliberately incite a strong psychological reaction, at which point, they can be effectively singled out for reverse IP location and possibly local enforcement tracking. Sometimes an agent will 'lead' a forum by replying to their own post exhibiting violent intention, adding they 'don’t care what the authorities think!' designed to inflame others. Showing no fear can be more effective in getting the more silent and self-disciplined members to slip and post their real intentions or reveal their violent tendencies. This can be used later to manipulate the member into committing illegal acts or in a court of law during prosecution.

Technique #6 - ‘BREAKING the BANHAMMER’
An agent may come into a forum adopting an anti-authoritarian, anarchist tone. This seems legitimate enough at first glance, but the agent will quickly use this this anti-authoritarian attitude towards the forum’s own moderating team in order to undermine the authority of and respect for the moderation team. An agent may use phrases such as, "You mean you're banning people? Aren't you about free speech" Etc. This is a technique presents the moderator or moderators with a catch-22; either ban the troublemaker and lend credence to the claim that the moderation team is hypocritical, or don't ban him or her and continue allowing the agent to complain about how the site's staff is hypocritical and push other items the group may be discussing off-topic.

Technique #7 - 'GAINING FULL CONTROL'

Agents will often be continually maneuvering for a forum moderator position. Once this position is obtained, the forum can then be effectively and quietly controlled by deleting unfavourable or vital posts and then agents can eventually steer the forum into complete failure and create a lack of interest among members to participate. Depending on the level of control an agent obtains, they can deliberately steer a forum into defeat by censoring postings, deleting memberships, flooding, and or accidentally taking the forum offline. This is the 'ultimate victory' as the forum is no longer active or useful in mobilizing, engaging or informing its members. By this method the forum can be quickly killed. However it‘s not always in the agent’s interest to kill a forum as it can be converted into a 'honey pot' of information and to misdirect newcomers. A compromised forum is also useful to an agent as a mechanism of control.

CONCLUSION

Remember, these techniques are only effective if the forum participants DO NOT KNOW ABOUT THEM. Please help make more of your fellow activists aware of these techniques and discuss strategies for how they may be combated communally, ideally, BEFORE they become an issue.
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