The distributed network ecology of cyberspace is playing an increasingly vital role in the terms of digital dissent, this week I delve into how the environment allows and facilitates that of political discourse. Because each individual node possesses the power to broadcast to the entire network, it could be assumed this would “diversify the marketplace of ideas” and afford the public an “improved forum for political deliberation” (Wojcieszak & Mutz, 2009, p.40). This is an ideal tactic in increasing the involvement of consumer awareness within democratic governance, though some instances have highlighted the way government agencies take advantage of the Internet’s distributed topography and use it to sway the views during important periods.

‘Sock Puppeting’ functions through the filter of deception. It is the act of curating fraud online personas, creating the illusion of collective support or rejection towards specific causes, people, situations.

Operation Earnest Voice was a government campaign, devised by the US military where a large quantity of sock puppets aided the movement in spreading pro-US political propaganda through conversation on various social media platforms. It was supposedly established in Iraq as a psychological warfare weapon against the online presence of al-Qaida supporters and others ranged against coalition forces.

The ‘electronic frontier’ is presented in this context is quite daunting, and the way governments have the power to manipulate the public behind many masks through a distributed network arouses a sense of political and digital ambiguity. Deceiving populations on this scale raises the concern and realistic threat about the capabilities of the government, and those similar, suppressing values and directing them to corrupt ends.




4 thoughts on “Socked!

  1. Your meme is the greatest thing I have seen!! I was really shocked to find out in the video that you linked that the NDAA legalised online propaganda because they said it ‘ties the hands of America’s diplomatic officials, military, and others by inhibiting our ability to effectively communicate in a credible way.’ This was from this article which details in the change of the law: This is really interesting because they literally have the power to do anything. Now with the power that the masses have started to gain with leaking information and classified documents about the government and their affairs, it would make sense that the government would use a power that the masses cannot attain–this is the ability to change the law. By changing the law, the government is doing something really morally wrong but can support themselves because they are technically doing nothing illegal. This leads me to wonder what else governments can do in order to benefit their own agenda whilst compromising the safety and freedom of their citizens.


  2. Sock Puppeting is such a dangerous paradigm. Government propaganda displayed through the legacy media is one thing, yet online its relationship and allegiance to that government is hidden and disguised as freedom. You drew upon this idea when you wrote the government is manipulating the public behind many masks. This is a clever way for the government to both access what the public is talking about online, prune ideas they do not want discussed, and drive conversations in any way they wish. This source ( likens the US Military’s sock puppet behaviours to that of the Chinese Government’s “attempt to control and restrict free speech on the internet”. We see the Chinese Government’s efforts as pretty extreme, who’d have thought Western Governments would be doing the same? The sneakiness makes me uneasy.
    – Claire


  3. I hate it when my date on tinder turns out to be a government.

    Seriously though, this is creepy. I was aware that this was done by a few governments, but I didn’t know it had happened in Iraq to promote the occupation. Seems a little… evil empire-y.
    The application of sock puppets has always fascinated me, though, especially the Russian examples. Both for the purposes of directing international and national discourse, the Russian state employs leagues of users to write pro-state messages and bury opposition with trolling. It’s pretty bloody mental. I’ll post in a link to a sweet guardian article if you’re interested


  4. I had no idea sock puppeting was really a thing. Jesus, mixing government propaganda with the technology of the internet is a scary thing. Really interesting read overall. The insight you offered into the blog post is also great.


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