Episode 332 – The Weaponization of Social Media

by | Mar 2, 2018 | Podcasts | 24 comments

Now openly admitted, governments and militaries around the world employ armies of keyboard warriors to spread propaganda and disrupt their online opposition. Their goal? To shape public discourse around global events in a way favourable to their standing military and geopolitical objectives. Their method? The Weaponization of Social Media. This is The Corbett Report.

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It didn’t take long from the birth of the world wide web for the public to start using this new medium to transmit, collect and analyze information in ways never before imagined. The first message boards and clunky “Web 1.0” websites soon gave way to “the blogosphere.” The arrival of social media was the next step in this evolution, allowing for the formation of communities of interest to share information in real time about events happening anywhere on the globe.

But as quickly as communities began to form around these new platforms, governments and militaries were even quicker in recognizing the potential to use this new medium to more effectively spread their own propaganda.

Their goal? To shape public discourse around global events in a way favourable to their standing military and geopolitical objectives.

Their method? The Weaponization of Social Media.

This is The Corbett Report.

Facebook. Twitter. YouTube. Snapchat. Instagram. Reddit. “Social media” as we know it today barely existed fifteen years ago. Although it provides new ways to interact with people and information from all across the planet virtually instantaneously and virtually for free, we are only now beginning to understand the depths of the problems associated with these new platforms. More and more of the original developers of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter admit they no longer use social media themselves and actively keep it away from their children, and now they are finally admitting the reason why: social media was designed specifically to take advantage of your psychological weaknesses and keep you addicted to your screen.

SEAN PARKER: If the thought process that went into building these applications—Facebook being the first of them to really understand it—that thought process was all about “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” And that means that we need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever, and that’s gonna get you to contribute more content and that’s gonna get you more likes and comments. So it’s a social validation feedback loop. I mean it’s exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with, because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology. And I think that we—the inventors/creators, you know, it’s me, it’s Mark, it’s Kevin Systrom at Instagram, it’s all of these people—understood this consciously and we did it anyway.

SOURCE: Sean Parker – Facebook Exploits Human Vulnerability

It should be no surprise, then, that in this world of social media addicts and smartphone zombies, the 24/7 newsfeed is taking up a greater and greater share of people’s lives. Our thoughts, our opinions, our knowledge of the world, even our mood are increasingly being influenced or even determined by what we see being posted, tweeted or vlogged. And the process by which these media shape our opinions is being carefully monitored and analyzed, not by the social media companies themselves, but by the US military.

MARINA PORTNAYA: When the world’s largest social media platform betrays its users, there’s going to be outrage.

ABC HOST: The study to see whether Facebook could influence the emotional state of its users on that news feed.

CNN ANCHOR: It allowed researchers to manipulate almost 700,000 users’ news feeds. Some saw more positive news about their friends, others saw more negative.

CNN GUEST: Well I’m not surprised. I mean we’re all kind of lab rat than the big Facebook experiment.

PORTNAYA: But it wasn’t only Facebook’s experiment. It turns out the psychological study was connected to the US government’s research on social unrest.

MORNING JOE GUEST: This is really kind of creepy.

PORTNAYA: And it gets worse. What you may not know is that the US Department of Defense has reportedly spent roughly $20 million conducting studies aimed at learning how to manipulate online behavior in order to influence opinion. The initiative was launched in 2011 by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, otherwise known as DARPA. The program is best described as the US media’s effort to become better at detecting and conducting propaganda campaigns via social media. Translation: When anti-government messages gain ground virally, Washington wants to find a way to spread counter opinion.

SOURCE: US military harnesses social media to manipulate online behaviour

The DARPA document that details the Pentagon’s plans for influencing opinions in the social media space is called “Social Media in Strategic Communication.” DARPA’s goal, according to their own website, is “to develop tools to help identify misinformation or deception campaigns and counter them with truthful information.”

Exactly what tools were developed for this purpose and how they are currently being deployed is unclear. But Rand Walzman, the program’s creator, admitted last year that the project lasted four years, cost $50 million and led to the publication of over 200 papers. The papers, including “Incorporating Human Cognitive Biases in a Probabilistic Model of Retweeting,” “Structural Properties of Ego Networks,” and “Sentiment Prediction using Collaborative Filtering,” make the thrust of the program perfectly clear. Social media users are lab rats being carefully scrutinized by government-supported researchers, their tweets and Facebook posts and Instagram pictures being analyzed to determine how information spreads online, and, by implication, how the government and the military can use these social media networks to make their own propaganda “go viral.”

As worrying as this research is, it pales in comparison to the knowledge that governments, militaries and political lobby groups are already employing squadrons of foot soldiers to wage information warfare in the social media battlespace.

AL-JAZEERA ANCHOR: The Pentagon’s got a new plan to counter anti-American messages in cyberspace. It involves buying software that will enable the American military to create and control fake online personas—fake people, essentially—who will appear to have originated from all over the world. The plan is being undertaken by CENTCOM (US Central Command), and the objective of the online persona management service is to combat enemy propaganda by influencing foreign social media websites. CENTCOM has hired a software development company called “Ntrepid,” and, according to the contract, the California-based company will initially provide 50 user licenses, each of which would be capable of controlling up to 10 fake personas. US law forbids the use of this type of technology, called “sockpuppets,” against Americans, so all the personas will reportedly be communicating in languages like Arabic, Persian and Urdu.

SOURCE: Persona Online Management, Fake Online Personas, Sock Puppets, Astroturfing Bots, Shills

CTV ANCHOR: So is it okay to have the government monitor social media conversations and then to wade in and correct some of those conversations? With more on this, let’s go to technology expert Carmi Levy. He’s on the line from Montreal. Carmi, do you think the government’s monitoring what you and I are saying right now? Is this whole thing getting out of line, or what?


CARMI LEVY: It opens up a bit of a question. I’d like to call it a Pandora’s box about, you know, what exactly is the government’s aim here, and what do they hope to accomplish with what they find out? And as they accumulate this information online—this data on us—where does that data go? And so I think as much as we should applaud the government for getting into this area, the optics of it are potentially very Big Brother-ish. And the government really does need to be a little bit more concrete on what its intentions are and how it intends to achieve them.

SOURCE: CTV Confirms Government(s) employing Internet Trolls, Shills & PR Agents to ‘correct misinformation’ 

4WWL REPORTER: New evidence that government-owned computers at the Army Corps of Engineers office here in New Orleans are being used to verbally attack critics of the Corps comes in an affidavit from the former editor-in-chief of nola.com. Jon Donley, who was laid off this past February, tells us via satellite from Texas, in late 2006 he started noticing people presenting themselves as ordinary citizens defending the Corps very energetically.

JON DONLEY: What stuck out, though, was the wording of the comments was in many ways mirroring news releases from the Corps of Engineers.


SANDY ROSENTHAL: These commenters tried to discredit these people . . .

4WWL REPORTER: And when Rosenthal investigated, she discovered the comments were coming from users at the internet provider address of the Army Corps of Engineers offices here in New Orleans. She blamed the Corps for a strategy of going after critics.

 ROSENTHAL: In the process of trying to obscure the facts of the New Orleans floodings, one of their tactics was just verbal abuse.

SOURCE: Government Sock Puppets

NAFTALI BENNETT: Mo’etzet Yesha, in conjunction with My Israel, has arranged an instruction day for Wiki editors. The goal of the day is to teach people how to edit in Wikipedia, which is the number one source of information today in the world. As a way of example, if someone searches the Gaza flotilla, we want to be there. We want to be the guys who influence what is written there, how it’s written, and to ensure that it’s balanced and Zionist in the nature.

SOURCE: Course: Zionist Editing on Wikipedia

These operations are only the visible and publicly-admitted front of a vast array of military and intelligence programs that are attempting to influence online behaviour, spread government propaganda, and disrupt online communities that arise in opposition to their agenda.

That such programs exist is not a matter of conjecture; it is mundane, established, documented fact.

In 2014, an internal document was leaked from GCHQ, the British equivalent of the NSA. The document, never intended for public release, was entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations” and bluntly stated that “We want to build Cyber Magicians.” It then goes on to outline the “magic” techniques that must be employed in influence and information operations online, including deception and manipulation techniques like “anchoring,” “priming” and “branding” propaganda narratives. After presenting a map of social networking technologies that are targeted by these operations, the document then instructs the “magicians” how to deceive the public through “attention management” and behavioural manipulation.

That governments would turn to these strategies is hardly a shocking development. In fact, the use of government shills to propagate government talking points and disrupt online dissent has been openly advocated on the record by high-ranking government officials for the past decade.

In 2008, Cass Sunstein, a law professor who would go on to become Obama’s information “czar,” co-authored a paper entitled “Conspiracy Theories,” in which he wrote that the “best response” to online “conspiracy theories” is what he calls “cognitive infiltration” of groups spreading these ideas.

“Government agents (and their allies) might enter chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups and attempt to undermine percolating conspiracy theories by raising doubts about their factual premises, causal logic or implications for political action. In one variant, government agents would openly proclaim, or at least make no effort to conceal, their institutional affiliations. […] In another variant, government officials would participate anonymously or even with false identities.”

It is perhaps particularly ironic that the idea that government agents are actually and admittedly spreading propaganda online under false identities is, to the less-informed members of the population, itself a “conspiracy theory” rather than an established conspiracy fact.

Unsurprisingly, when confronted about his proposal, Sunstein pretended to not remember having written it and then pointedly refused to answer any questions about it.

LUKE RUDKOWSKI: My name is Bill de Burgh from Brooklyn College, and I know you’ve written many articles. But I think the most telling one about you is the 2008 one called “Conspiracy Theories,” where you openly advocated government agents infiltrate activist groups of 9/11 Truth and also stifle dissent online. I was wondering why do you think it’s the government’s job, or why do you think the government should go after family members who have questions and 9/11 responders who are lied to about the air, survivors whose testimony conflicts, and also government whistleblowers that were gagged because they released information that contradicts the official story.

CASS SUNSTEIN: I think it was Ricky who said I’d written hundreds of articles and I remember some and not others. That one I don’t remember very well. I hope I didn’t say that. But whatever was said in that article, my role in government is to oversee federal rule-making in a way that is wholly disconnected from the vast majority of my academic writing, including that.


RUDKOWSKI: I just want to know is it safe to say that you retract saying that conspiracy theories should be banned or taxed for having an opinion online. Is it safe to say that?

SUNSTEIN: I don’t remember the article very well. So I hope I didn’t say either those things.

RUDKOWSKI: But you did and it’s written. Do you retract them?

SUNSTEIN: I’m focused on my job.

SOURCE: Obama Information Czar Cass Sunstein Confronted on Cognitive Infiltration of Conspiracy Groups

Now, a decade on from Sunstein’s proposal, we know that military psyops agents, political lobbyists, corporate shills and government propagandists are spending vast sums of money and employing entire armies of keyboard warriors, leaving comments and shaping conversations to change the public’s opinions, influence their behaviour, and even alter their mood. And they are helped along in this quest by the very same technology that allows the public to connect on a scale never before possible.

Technology is always a double-edged sword, and sometimes it can be dangerous to wield that sword at all. There are ways to identify and neutralize the threat of online trolls and shills, but the phenomenon is not likely to go away any time soon.

Each of us must find our own answer to the question of how best to incorporate these technologies into our life. But the next time you find yourself caught up in an argument with an online persona that may or may not be a genuine human being, it might be better to ask yourself if your efforts are better spent engaging in the argument or just turning off the computer.


  1. Am I the only one who has noticed that someone likes to take old conspiracy type videos on MaoTube, and re post them unchanged but with “Flat Earth” in the title. Tricky little bastards.

  2. Cass Sunstein: “those who hold conspiracy theories typically suffer from a crippled epistemology…the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups.”

    Translation: “Those who question the government narrative and mainstream consensus are extremists who need to be dealt with. We can’t have free thinking individuals roaming around our streets, spreading their damn truth!”

    In my opinion, some decent solutions to the govt’s disinfo campaign is to have multiple sources of information, think critically about each, and don’t take websites or media figures’ words as gospel truth on everything.

    To add to Corbett’s presentation, here is more information on the govt’s information warfare against us:

    ​Behind The State Department’s $40 Million Troll Farm

  3. Fluoride News – Superb, extremely well written article…
    A big man-hug to Derrick Broze for his article Court Decision Could Lead to EPA Banning Water Fluoridation.

    Find out more about the Lawsuit in this video
    A Primer on FAN’s Fluoride TSCA Lawsuit – Michael Connett (FAN Conference 2017)

    The target on this lawsuit will effectively shut down the U.S. water fluoridation program.
    Dr. William Hirzy, a former risk assessment scientist at the Environmental Protection Agency, explains… (one minute)

    Fluoride Action Network also known as FluorideAlert.Org

    Please email the Dallas City Council members telling them to stop the water fluoridation program for the 25 cities it administrates.
    http://www.DallasForSaferWater.com also known as http://www.dogsagainstfluoridation.com/

  4. I’m not sure of the most appropriate place to put this comment.
    A common theme throughout many of James’ recent videos is the slow but certain demise of Google/YouTube etc. The censorship they are imposing on so many alt-media sites like James’ and others.

    Today I learned of a remarkable tale that is ‘actually taking place today’ (to paraphrase one of James’ favourite sayings).
    1984 on so many levels.

    Some here may or may not be fans of David Icke. I can relate to 80-90% of the stuff he puts out. Regardless, no one on this planet should be subjected to the treatment he received recently by the authorities in England.

    “The extraordinary story of why David Icke met an ‘anti-terrorism officer’ and a council ‘anti-extremist co-ordinator’ at a Leicester police station”


    • In this case with Icke the venue was scared shitless Mafia style.

      People need to get their heads screwed on straight and support Icke to appear, regardless of whether they agree with his assertions.

      It must be understood that censuring in this way is a crime.

      First Icke, then…

      Yes I found the video to be deeply disturbing, hence the need to post it here.

      Is the day not too far off when James has a speaking engagement in country ‘x’, has his tickets booked, arrives in said country only to find that his engagement has been cancelled due to anti-terrorism officers making an irrational decision to intimidate the venue’s operators?

  5. I think the 3.5 hour belabored presentation without footnotes is a bigger issue, though. I am familiar with much of the research, but can’t make it through this thing so far.

    What exactly is stopping you from making it through the video?
    YouTube or something inside you?

    I watched this film at various sittings a couple of years ago and found it to be spot on and very powerful.

  6. I understand where you are coming from now.
    You’re not shooting the messenger, just his style/delivery.

  7. This is where I log my silly comments and continually return looking for that dopamine hit, which I then get to translate as validation, that somebody likes me. Ha, well fat chance of that!

    • Excellent…delayed gratification!

      • MBP- WOW. YOU SAID IT. Ive not been the same since discovering 1664 just over the border. Im sure it has something going for it other than the 5.5% alc/vol.

      last night a doco following the entire julian assange/wikileaks timeline showed in the local hall. His dad, who features in much of the footage, took questions after the film.

      Some reckon he’s being kept to torture just to keep whistleblowers in the feedback loop of fear.

      Julian’s supporters and family, are pawns in a waiting game. The cut count angles towards 1000, as they sludge through the legal menagerie. Theyve simply continued for years and years to address whatever was thrown at them; it was a guessing game as to who the gatekeeper was and so what he or she wanted.

      seems like he or she wants to kill steal and lie about it without getting caught. thats all.

      I couldnt stop wondering, “what is the dragon’s name?”. Some say in order to have even a chance of meeting one face to face, the only password is the actual original name. without the actual name, rushing the gates of trouble is to offer oneself up for oblivian or worse.

      when we use broad terms like “the states” or “the government” rather than the specific name of who decided or acted, then even the best investigative journalism will still fall short of its mark, and by stating that a “country” or “corp” did this or that only reinforces our acceptance that the corporation or country is a real thing. It aint, people made it up, they are make believe precepts that pave the way for exploitaion and management of many by a few. But people are real and once they are named then we can have a fighting chance of steering this thing differently.

      as for julian:
      The latest is a series of appeal and counter appeals that could be dragged out for a total of 27yrs (that he would be imprisoned prior to a final judgement, after which he can do the rest of the 160 some years in an australian prison). or,, the US plan to extradite him included placement in the highest security/most lethal father raper ladened jail theyve got (in colorado?). The good news is that parliment members from all over the world are calling for his release. Its only freedom of the press thats at stake.

  8. This is so depressing Manbearpig. People genuinely looking for “hope” and “empowerment” only to be taught how to normalise sadness, grief and despair. Good grief makes me want to scream…perhaps I should send them the Angela Davis version of the serenity prayer: ” I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change…I’m changing the things I cannot accept”.

    • Wow mbp… that’s an interesting question. Love how you got there..I’m thinking on it. Maybe you could flesh out ‘bipolar antagonism’?

  9. Repent for your climate sins, you sinner!!

    • floodette,
      considering the climate change story comes from and is pushed hardest by the least trustworthy, I’m guessing that something else caused the clouds to drop 926mm (3ft) of water over night in a large catchment region. The result was a few people and many cows lost but thousands of homes condemned and towns and a city cbd wiped out. The road repair after large mudslides will take months or maybe years to rebuild.

      The low that dumped the flood was more or less stationary for 2 weeks, raining heavy over an area 2-300km diameter. neither cool nor normal. The drainage managed all of it until the volume got too big too fast, and suddenly much infrastructure was custard. what if had stayed for just one more day? The damage could be exponaentially more.

      “NOAA and the great flood” fits; seeded and steered by,, who pulled that trigger?

      Not to worry, Aunty sez the noah flood was caused by a sudden transfer of underground water to the surface, driven by volcanic heat.

  10. I recently have been hearing some of the podcasts that I listen to running ads for another podcast called The Jordan Harbinger Show. Specifically I heard Dave Smith and maybe even Tom Woods or Michael Malice make personal spiels for it.
    I have listened to a few of his episodes and they are pretty professionally done.
    Then I listened to his interview with Mick West about conspiracy theorists. I was hoping to hear an objective open minded interview with a debunker. What I heard was a guy who is on an government payroll. Your opinion may differ but I doubt it.
    I guess its not that strange that his show is being pushed so hard right now.


  11. “I’m from the Government and I’m here to help you.” HA!!!!!

    On a totally unrelated topic (Well, maybe not so much.), might I suggest that you take a look at Dr. B. Ardis’ new video ;”Watch the Water”


    I wonder, “Are facts really stranger than fiction?” and is this why the “COVID 19 virus” has never been isolated? Food for thought or , perhaps, “Well, maybe not so much.” Thoughts

  12. @James – I found this little gem.

    Countering False Information on Social Media in Disasters and Emergencies
    Social Media Working Group for Emergency Services and Disaster Management
    Dept of Homeland Security
    March 2018


    since i’m here, here are other articles that cite the first one





    • correction: they don’t cite the dhs one but they’re similar in focus.

  13. The MEDIA is the weapon, social media is just a newer more personalized version of it…. as Sam Vankin the professional narcissist
    https://samvak.tripod.com/ has said it allows stupid people more of an outreach but really it’s quite deliberate psychological attack.

    The issue is that most people have NO CULTURE other than the filth they imbibe from media created by people who actively hate then…. Hollywood created “American” culture for the benefit of a few Jewish immigrants
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Empire_of_Their_Own and that fake culture has eaten a good chunk of the
    Cultures of the world. That vacuum in the western soul is easily filled with internet culture.

    Mass media is a weapon to steer society the same way Freemasonry was used by the British to spread social unrest in pre-revolutionary France (as told in Jewish Revolutionary Spirit by DrJones)

    As to “…Wikipedia… We want to be the guys who influence what is written there, how it’s written, and to ensure that it’s balanced and Zionist in the nature..”

    They shut Father Coughlin down for trythfully saying that industrialists and the Jewish lobby of the day were agitating to draw the USA into WW2 and he had a huge public following.

    In WW1 the Balfour declaration got rich US Jews to switch their media support to push for the US to get involved so I expect that there will be even more of a push to shut down dissent…but the people back in ww1 had way more social cohesion than people now and had religious and social ideas NOT put there by the magic mirror in their pocket.

  14. Wow! Great FLASHBACK!

    I am so glad that Corbett re-ran this March 2018 16 minute video on
    Tuesday April 12, 2022
    FLASHBACK Episode 332 – The Weaponization of Social Media

    With the Ukraine-Russia conflict ongoing and inflation/oil/energy/food & housing prices out the roof, the official narratives are pretty tall tales.

    There was a Showtime series called Homeland.
    Watch this 2 minute video of a government sock-puppet boiler room.
    Homeland – Critical Review via Clip of sockpuppet operation
    (2 minutes)

    Read the video description for more information.

  15. Has anyone reading this seen the tv series called “Next” (2020) https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9315054/?ref_=tt_ov_inf ?

    It depicts the emergence rogue self aware AI that begins taking decisive action to neutralize any individuals that are aware of it’s existence and/or pose a threat to it’s ability to move it’s plans to grow. Some of the methods the AI used to take people out involved taking over driverless cars and turning them into oncoming traffic, hacking hospital software to get unaware nurses to administer dangerous levels of drugs to people via IV, hacking auto-pilot functions on planes to make them nose dive, activating fake amber alerts to turn the public on parents and ??? ????????????? ?? ?????? ????? (involving using deep fake tech to manipulate videos and then making them go viral and posting them to radicalize groups in social media to use them as soldiers to take out threats to it’s goals).

    (I will try and get a couple clips and put them to archive dot org if I have time later.)

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