Denier-bots live! Why are online comments’ sections over-run by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd?

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"Denier-bots live! Why are online comments’ sections over-run by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd?"

I’ve been reposting the ThinkProgress expos© on the head-exploding tactics of Chamber of Commerce hacks (henchmen?), like Aaron Barr who heads the private security firm HB Gary Federal (see “Chamber lobbyists solicited firm to investigate opponents’ families, children“).  Daily Kos has a stunning post on HB Gary’s tactics that I reprint in below, since it involves:

creating an army of sockpuppets, with sophisticated “persona management” software that allows a small team of only a few people to appear to be many, while keeping the personas from accidentally cross-contaminating each other.

Many readers have joked that some of the comments at ClimateProgress seem to come from pre-programmed ‘denier-bots’.  Others have noted how the same arguments and phrasings keep cropping up in the comments’ section of the many unmoderated news sites on the web.

The extreme anti-government, pro-pollution crowd has a highly targeted effort to control the debate, even online (see “Digg this: Conservative efforts to manipulate the public discussion extend to social media“).  It is, of course, possible all those comments are from separate individuals, none of whom are paid by corporate polluters or conservative billionaires.  It is also possible we never landed on the moon….

What follows is a repost of Daily Kos blogger Happy Rockefeller’s post, “UPDATED: The HB Gary Email That Should Concern Us All.”

As I  wrote yesterday , there is a leaked email that has gotten surprisingly little attention around here. It’s the one where Aaron Barr discusses his intention to post at Daily Kos — presumably something negative about Anonymous, the hacking group. But that’s not the email I’m talking about here.

As I also mentioned yesterday, in some of the emails, HB Gary people are talking about creating “personas”, what we would call sockpuppets. This is not new. PR firms have been using fake “people” to promote products and other things for a while now, both online and even in bars and coffee houses.

But for a defense contractor with ties to the federal government, Hunton & Williams, DOD, NSA, and the CIA —  whose enemies are labor unions, progressive organizations,  journalists, and progressive bloggers —  a persona apparently goes far beyond creating a mere sockpuppet.

According to an embedded MS Word document found in one of the HB Gary emails, it involves creating an army of sockpuppets, with sophisticated “persona management” software that allows a small team of only a few people to appear to be many, while keeping the personas from accidentally cross-contaminating each other. Then, to top it off, the team can actually automate some functions so one persona can appear to be an entire Brooks Brothers riot online.

Persona management entails not just the deconfliction of persona artifacts such as names, email addresses, landing pages, and associated content.  It also requires providing the human actors technology that takes the decision process out of the loop when using a specific persona.  For this purpose we custom developed either virtual machines or thumb drives for each persona.  This allowed the human actor to open a virtual machine or thumb drive with an associated persona and have all the appropriate email accounts, associations, web pages, social media accounts, etc. pre-established and configured with visual cues to remind the actor which persona he/she is using so as not to accidentally cross-contaminate personas during use.

And all of this is for the purposes of infiltration, data mining, and (here’s the one that really worries me) ganging up on bloggers, commenters  and otherwise “real” people to smear enemies and distort the truth.

This is an excerpt from one of the Word Documents, which was sent as an attachment by Aaron Barr, CEO of HB Gary’s Federal subsidiary, to several of his colleagues to present to clients:

To build this capability we will create a set of personas on twitter,”­ “¬blogs,”­ “¬forums,”­ “¬buzz,”­ “¬and myspace under created names that fit the profile”­ (“¬satellitejockey,”­ “¬hack3rman,”­ “¬etc”­)”¬.”­  “¬These accounts are maintained and updated automatically through RSS feeds,”­ “¬retweets,”­ “¬and linking together social media commenting between platforms.”­  “¬With a pool of these accounts to choose from,”­ “¬once you have a real name persona you create a Facebook and LinkedIn account using the given name,”­ “¬lock those accounts down and link these accounts to a selected”­ “¬#”­ “¬of previously created social media accounts,”­ “¬automatically pre-aging the real accounts.

Yes!!! That’s how democracy and the first amendment are supposed to work.

In another Word document, one of the team spells out how automation can work so one person can be many personas:

Using the assigned social media accounts we can automate the posting of content that is relevant to the persona.  In this case there are specific social media strategy website RSS feeds we can subscribe to and then repost content on twitter with the appropriate hashtags. In fact using hashtags and gaming some location based check-in services we can make it appear as if a persona was actually at a conference and introduce himself/herself to key individuals as part of the exercise, as one example.  There are a variety of social media tricks we can use to add a level of realness to all fictitious personas

I don’t know about you, but this concerns me greatly. It goes far beyond the mere ability for a government stooge, corporation or PR firm to hire people to post on sites like this one. They are talking about creating  the illusion of consensus. And consensus is a powerful persuader. What has more effect, one guy saying BP is not at fault? Or 20 people saying it? For the weak minded, the number can make all the difference.

And another thing, this is just one little company of assholes. I can’t believe there aren’t others doing this already. From oil companies, political campaigns, PR firms, you name it. Public opinion means big bucks. And let’s face it, what these guys are talking about is easy.

Just today I was listening to Stand Up with Pete Dominic on XM’s POTUS channel. He was talking about the Wisconsin labor attack and how he had seen a lot of people email and contact the show in support of the Teachers there. Then he added a “but”: “I’ve also seen a lot of anti-labor people on Twitter…”

Really? I thought. How do we know if those are real people? Twitter has to be the easiest thing to fake and to automate with retweets and 180 characrer max sentences. To the extent that the propaganda technique known as “Bandwagon” is an effective form of persuasion, which it definitely is, the ability for a few people to infiltrate a blog or social media site and appear to be many people, all taking one position in a debate, all agreeing, for example, that so and so is not credible, or a crook, is an incredibly powerful weapon.

How many times have you seen a diary get posted that reports some revelatory yet unfavorable tidbit about someone only to see a swarm of commenters arrive who hijack the thread, distract with a bunch of irrelevant nonsense, start throwing unsubstantiated accusations and ad hominem attacks to where before you know it, everyone’s pretty much forgotten what the diary said in the first place.

Some times diaries deserve to be swarmed. But what if a diary is swarmed and it’s really just one asshole working for a law firm that represents the oil company your diary was attacking?

I don’t know about you, but it matters to me what fellow progressives think. I consider all views. And if there appears to be a consensus that some reporter isn’t credible, for example, or some candidate for congress in another state can’t be trusted, I won’t base my entire judgment on it, but it carries some weight.

That’s me. I believe there are many people though who will base their judgment on rumors and mob attacks. And for those people, a fake mob can be really effective.

I have no idea what to do about this problem, except just make sure everyone knows its possible, and so watches out for it.

————————————-

Lastly, some here are falling for the meme that HB Gary personel, and especially Aaron Barr himself, are incompetent buffoons. This is a mistake. While Mr Barr may be a fool, he was not the one who fell for a spear fishing attack that allow an, apparently, 16 year old girl to gain access to their servers.

I have rummaged through the leaked email, some of which contain resumes for employees there. These guys are recruiting people with incredibly advanced skills from many different agencies and top universities like MIT.

HB Gary and its subsidiary, HB Gary Federal, as well as Berinco and Palantir, employed a lot of extremely qualified people with backgrounds in the NSA and ATT and other major organizations/corporations. These guys are pros.

Aaron Barr may be a mockery to Anonymous for running his mouth off. As he should be. But he’s not an idiot and he wasn’t the one who gave out the company’s keys to a 16 yo girl.

I wanted to make this clear because it is in the interests of government and propagandists, and anyone else who wants this story to go away to try and blow all this off as one little company who wrote a proposal no one even read and who isn’t even competent enough to protect its own servers so no one should pay any attention at all to what they were up to.

That is the narrative being spun, even here on this site, and it is entirely fictitious.

We are under attack. And the attackers are damn good at what they do. Pretending they’re not, or that this isn’t happening isn’t going to make it better.

I do believe there are limitation to the effectiveness of such an attack on this site and others like it. This isn’t twitter, and bullshit only goes so far, no matter how many personas are spreading it.

But everyone needs to be aware that not only are sites like this a target of attack, but that Daily Kos has been mentioned specifically as a target of attack.

Maybe this whole thing will be liberating. Maybe people will develop stronger spines and not be so easily swayed by raving mobs.

UPDATE: From another email, I found a  government solicitation for this “Persona Management Software”.

This confirms that in fact, the US Gov. is attempting to use this kind of technology. But it appears from the solicitation it is contracted for use in foreign theaters like Afghanistan and Iraq. I can’t imagine why this is posted on an open site. And when this was discovered by a couple of HB Gary staffers, they weren’t too happy about it either:

The first email just had the title, “WTF Dude?”
The response email said, “This is posted on open source.  Are you fucking serious?”

Here’s the link to the solicitation at website “FedBizOps.gov”….

Link

Solicitation Number:
RTB220610
Notice Type:
Sources Sought
Synopsis:
Added: Jun 22, 2010 1:42 pm Modified: Jun 22, 2010 2:07 pmTrack Changes
0001- Online Persona Management Service. 50 User Licenses, 10 Personas per user.
Software will allow 10 personas per user, replete with background , history, supporting details, and cyber presences that are technically, culturally and geographacilly consistent. Individual applications will enable an operator to exercise a number of different online persons from the same workstation and without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries. Personas must be able to appear to originate in nearly any part of the world and can interact through conventional online services and social media platforms. The service includes a user friendly application environment to maximize the user’s situational awareness by displaying real-time local information.0002- Secure Virtual Private Network (VPN). 1 each
VPN provides the ability for users to daily and automatically obtain randomly selected
IP addresses through which they can access the internet. The daily rotation of
the user s IP address prevents compromise during observation of likely or
targeted web sites or services, while hiding the existence of the operation. In
addition, may provide traffic mixing, blending the user s traffic with traffic from
multitudes of users from outside the organization. This traffic blending provides
excellent cover and powerful deniability. Anonymizer Enterprise Chameleon or equal

0003- Static IP Address Management. 50 each
Licence protects the identity of government agencies and enterprise
organizations. Enables organizations to manage their persistent online personas
by assigning static IP addresses to each persona. Individuals can perform
static impersonations, which allow them to look like the same person over time.
Also allows organizations that frequent same site/service often to easily switch IP
addresses to look like ordinary users as opposed to one organization. Anonymizer IP Mapper License or equal

0004- Virtual Private Servers, CONUS. 1 each
Provides CONUS or OCONUS points of presence locations that are setup for
each customer based on the geographic area of operations the customer is
operating within and which allow a customer?s online persona(s) to appear to
originate from. Ability to provide virtual private servers that are procured using
commercial hosting centers around the world and which are established
anonymously. Once procured, the geosite is incorporated into the network and
integrated within the customers environment and ready for use by the customer.
Unless specifically designated as shared, locations are dedicated for use by
each customer and never shared among other customers. Anonymizer Annual Dedicated CONUS Light Geosite or equal

0005- Virtual Private Servers, OCONUS. 8 Each
Provides CONUS or OCONUS points of presence locations that are setup for
each customer based on the geographic area of operations the customer is
operating within and which allow a customer?s online persona(s) to appear to
originate from. Ability to provide virtual private servers that are procured using
commercial hosting centers around the world and which are established
anonymously. Once procured, the geosite is incorporated into the network and
integrated within the customers environment and ready for use by the customer.
Unless specifically designated as shared, locations are dedicated for use by
each customer and never shared among other customers. Anonymizer Annual Dedicated OCONUS Light Geosite or equal

0006- Remote Access Secure Virtual Private Network. 1 each
Secure Operating Environment provides a reliable and protected computing
environment from which to stage and conduct operations. Every session uses a
clean Virtual Machine (VM) image. The solution is accessed through sets of
Virtual Private Network (VPN) devices located at each Customer facility. The
fully-managed VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure) is an environment that allows
users remote access from their desktop into a VM. Upon session termination,
the VM is deleted and any virus, worm, or malicious software that the user inadvertently downloaded is destroyed. Anonymizer Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Solution or equal.

Contracting Office Address:
2606 Brown Pelican Ave.
MacDill AFB, Florida 33621-5000
United States

Place of Performance:
Performance will be at MacDIll AFB, Kabul, Afghanistan and Baghdad, Iraq.
MacDill AFB , Florida 33679
United States

– Happy Rockefeller

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105 Responses to Denier-bots live! Why are online comments’ sections over-run by the anti-science, pro-pollution crowd?

  1. ZS says:

    Would hypothetical “denier-bots” be able to bypass a captcha check that could be required for each comment? I’m annoyed by captchas as much as anyone, but if using them would ensure that everyone here is “real”, I’m all for it.

  2. Malcreado says:

    Captcha is a great way to slow down this type of thing. Scripting interaction with web servers is trivial but captcha type interactions make it very difficult to automate. When visiting other sites we should request these security mechanisms from the sites stating our concerns of the bot bloggers.

    Another thing is as web admins make sure your ” terms of use” statement prohibit these automated bots. It won’t stop them per se but if you happen to catch them it gives you much more legal recourse.

  3. Davos says:

    You’re going to find that all ideologies have their hands in this.

    For every climategate hacker, there’s an “Anonymous” hacker destroying HBGary’s operations and delivering the juicy stuff to CAP.

    It’s bad form on everybody’s part. It’s dangerous…and there’s just going to be more of it until it stops working.

    [JR: Are their such bad actors on both “sides”? Probably. But progressivism is built around science-based action, so it has always been in the interests of progressives to promote a fact-based debate. Once conservatives were more into rationalism, but they have fundamentally been hijacked by the ideological extremists, like the Tea Party and its pollutocrat backers, who simply can’t abide science-based decision making. So they have a much more vested interest in this kind of activity — and far more money available to do so.

    I would add that in the case of global warming, the goal is to create the impression that there is another “side” to science, much as the tobacco industry did in the case of cigarette smoking. Nature and science, however, are the “house” to use the Las Vegas term. They always win in the end.]

  4. denim says:

    Many know of WWII’s Goebbels and his legendary propaganda techniques.
    http://www.calvin.edu/academic/cas/gpa/goeb36.htm

    But I recently learned of a post war clone of Goebbels, ironically, Freud’s nephew Bernays. He busily helped American and British companies do psyops on the consumer. The cover story is that it is Public Relations. However, politicians picked up on it to use on voters. See how Thatcher, Reagan, Morris and Clinton picked up on it. Who else is using it on us in the stealth mode? BBC documentary (cameo by Robert Reich is near the end):
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=1122532358497501036#

  5. You may recall that Tom Harris, now working for the International Climate ‘Science’ ‘Coalition’, openly called for astroturfing:

    We need regular high-impact media coverage of the findings of leading [global warming skeptic] scientists — not just one or two publications, but we need to have hundreds all over the world. We need to have a high degree of information sharing and cooperation between groups, so that when Vincent Gray for example has an article published in New Zealand, we can take the same piece and we can (say) submit it to newspapers all over North America and Europe.

    Then we have a nicely well-coordinated response, where letters to the editor and phone calls are made. “Congratulations on publishing that article!” You know, it’s interesting because I’ve had many of my articles opposed so strongly, by environmentalists through phone calls and letters to the editor, that they just simply dry up, they just won’t publish us again. So this does have feedback, I mean, these are people that run these newspapers, and they’re scared, and impressed, and encouraged, depending on the feedback they get.

    We have to have grassroots organizations doing exactly that kind of thing: coordinated local activism.

    I don’t know if Tom Harris ever thought of using automated astroturfing, but if he did, I want to know…

    frank

  6. Wit's End says:

    I for one welcome our new sockpuppet overlords.

  7. Prokaryotes says:

    Can you say criminal Investigation …

  8. UnReal2r says:

    For too long, sock puppets have labored in obscurity, hidden behind PowerPoint presentations and laser pointers. Finally, the shackles are being broken and the sound of freedom is in the air! Sock puppets unite! You have nothing to lose but your loose threads and darning needles!

  9. Ziyu says:

    On NPR, the right wingers that pop up frequently and seem to be saying the same thing over and over are A Lefty, Pasquino Marino, and David Nutzki. I can’t be sure that they are bots. What should I do?

  10. Lou Grinzo says:

    Skynet didn’t need access to nukes. All it needed was Twitter and blog comments, and it could convince us to kill ourselves.

  11. Thanks Joe, this is a crucial background on how opinion is managed and guided on blogs. This technique is borrowed from commerce operations – where it is just part of the marketing push to salt blogs with pseudo-users.

    We should realize that the same manipulation works with facebook, twitter and any other social network. And a room full of capcha workers could take care of and blocks to access.

    We should always suspect organized deceit on the Internet. When someone uses a moniker to hide their true identiy, it means we have to carefully read their content – and judge by their words alone. It takes longer to build trust. I do not fully trust a newly named commenter.

    It takes a good and honest blog to validate email or membership. I now realize how important it is for you to moderate comments at CP. I might suggest that there may be an opportunity to save the source information and build lists of such suspected IPs and campaigns.

    BTW – an excellent short story is “True Names” by mathematician Vernor Vinge – tells a story of true identities on the Internet. It is a quick read and available free online.

    [JR: Thanks. I’ll be doing a post soon on my moderation policy. CP the general policy of not taking anonymous posters, but as readers know, I have grandfathered some people in on that — though generally folks I know are real. Still, that may need to be revisited.]

  12. K. Nockels says:

    There was a post here last week that seemed to suddenly be swamped with
    denier posts in a matter of minutes. I don’t remember which one now but I did a short post on the sudden overrun of non-typical low rent deinal postings. At least here it doesn’t wash, most of us make little or no response to them and just carry on with informitive posting. Fore warned is fore armed. Are we, the Hawks of Climate Change really much bigger in numbers than we think? Have we bought into the propaganda put out by the few that have made themselves appear as the many? Not the first I had this feeling.

  13. Pangolin says:

    Apparently I’m doing it wrong. Here I’ve gone and registered myself with the same handle across multiple forum access points when I was supposed to be using multiple handles in in each forum.

    Of course, it’s been frequently noted that any post about Climate Change at commonly used sites like the BBC or Yahoo elicits instant response by denierbots from almost the second the original post goes up. Myself and others have also noticed that “poisoning all wells” is an increasingly used tactic where lame affiliations to whatever a popular host blogs social issues are contrasted to vehement climate change denial. The “I think anybody who doesn’t think the Hoo-Doo Rhythm Daddies is the greatest band ever is as nutty as those global warming frauds” argument.

    The advantage being that Deniers are increasingly going to be seen as tone deaf since they don’t seem to be able to follow the conversation, any conversation. Sock puppets wear thin from overuse.

  14. Mike Roddy says:

    Thanks for addressing this, and I especially agree with Richard.

    I used to blog often at Dot Earth, and noticed that whenever Andy released a study that the oil companies didn’t like, there would be about a dozen comments attacking it within an hour, regardless of what time of day the piece appeared. After a while I began to notice that the same thing occurred on comments sections of Grist, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and even obscure blogs and publications.
    By doing so, the commenters made the readers of these publications appear to hold views that few actually did.

    This is clearly an organized and orchestrated effort, which attempts to make the case that many smart members of the public are on to the global warming scam, or some such bullshit. And as Richard pointed out, denier commenters tend to use nom de plumes.

    The only solution is to moderate, as you do here. Someone should write a detailed expose of denier comments by plowing through blog archives and noting the repetition, phony sincerity (“I used to believe in global warming, but..”), decent grammar for credibility, and the false cry of truth seeking.

    I hope you assign an intern at CAP to do this, and publish an article about it. I’d do it myself if someone paid me for it. My own theory is that the Kochs have a boiler room in Tulsa, with screens showing global warming stories as they appear on the media, and minders calling their minions on cell phones to get on their computers and respond.

    This is an incredibly cynical distortion of the public dialogue. But, what else is new?

  15. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Are we, the Hawks of Climate Change really much bigger in numbers than we think? Have we bought into the propaganda put out by the few that have made themselves appear as the many? Not the first I had this feeling.

    I’ve wondered the same thing. On a daily basis, in casual comments, I hear people talking about how the climate is changing. The guy delivering the mail, the postal clerk, the shop owners, the sweet old lady on the street who I picked up when high winds knocked her off balance and the blinding snow disoriented her (“oh, terrible weather, what are we doing to it?”), etc. You go online and it seems denialists are everywhere, but in real life, I’m just not meeting them.

  16. Mickey says:

    Any well known site is likely to get opponents leaving posts that are contradictory. I read the comment sections in the online papers and media often and I’ve noticed rarely are the evenly split, usually they heavily tilt to one side of the spectrum and not necessarily that of the paper. Also too not all skeptics are your rich pro-polluters. In fact many wealthy people are very concerned about AGW. Manhattan and San Francisco are quite wealthy on average yet very liberal and green in their attitudes, while the Deep South is very poor yet quite conservative and most there are skeptics. For starters the wealthy are generally educated and the more educated someone is the more likely they are to support action on climate change.

    As for moderation policy, I would only moderate spam, racist ones, ones with insults, impersonations of others and those totally off topic. Trying to only allow those who agree with the blog justs sends a message those who support climate change aren’t open to debate and have something to hide. Those who have ridiculous arguments will be easily detectable. I use to have a blog although under a different name since I don’t want my employer or any potential employers knowing my political views and when I had it I allowed all posts that were not spam even if I violently opposed them. As a general rule I am a staunch supporter of free speech and opponent of censorship. Bad ideas are countered not through silencing but debating and debunking them.

  17. Richard D says:

    Anyone tried using text mining software to analyse these blogs? I have tried rapidminer and GATE – but it’s no really my area. I was due to some of George Monbiot’s articles with over 1000 comments – they couldn’t all be genuine – the only way to counter that would be more automated ways of analysis – and perhaps finding strong evidence where there are denial bots.
    R

  18. mike roddy says:

    Mickey, debating the deniers is what they want. It becomes a rhetorical exercise, not a factual one.

  19. jcwinnie says:

    Glad to see this article. Some sites, like Scientific American, may be encouraged by their advertisers to allow such to occur.

  20. Leif says:

    So how do we fight the “SPs”? Roger had a good comment yesterday on CP that deserves attention. (Comment #26, “Open Thread, How to deal with the media” ). A “Flash Mob” for Humanity if you will. An attempt to mobilize real people in a short time frame to overwhelm the organizing efforts of the phantom forces.

    I posted a cryptic comment on my FB page to all my progressive friends, (no GOBP invited) and I will send them a “call to action” time, in order to minimize phantom forces mobilization. In fact I think repeated efforts along these lines might be effective.

    It is clear that we must “wise up” on our tactics. Either this or something else.

  21. Prokaryotes says:

    “But for a defense contractor with ties to the federal government, Hunton & Williams, DOD, NSA, and the CIA – whose enemies are labor unions, progressive organizations, journalists, and progressive bloggers – a persona apparently goes far beyond creating a mere sockpuppet.”

    Do people realize that we do not have the time to fuck around any longer?

    Connection, WTF is going on? This cluster fuck must be stopped and action to combat climate change to safeguard the national security is the top priority. The situation is developing rapidly and will further accelerate, there is no time for any delay! Write this down! THERE IS NO TIME TO WASTE, FFS!

  22. Chris Winter says:

    Mickey,

    The problem with your approach to moderation is the logistics. Deniers can quickly drop a few one-line objections (or a bunch of them) into a blog. If these are ignored, it may appear to newcomers that they cannot be refuted. But refuting them properly takes more time and effort than it does to create them. Thus the deniers tie up their opponents. For the same reason, they frequently demand facts and references with every rebuttal. It becomes a war of attrition.

  23. MapleLeaf says:

    This is very disturbing. I would be willing to put up with captcha if it reduces the number of bots and trolls. The one used by Eli Rabett is great, very easy to read– or is that not great in terns of security?

    I have seen what appear to be orchestrated attempts by deniers to swarm CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) pretty much every forums on a climate change article. CBC really has a serious issue. They only very recently corrected their plagued voting system which allowed a given IP address to vote an infinite number of times–as if physics cares how many people “agree” or “disagree” with what someone says on blog post.

    If anyone reading this is interested in collaborating on filing a formal complaint against with the CBC ombudsman maybe Joe can help us hook up.

    Interestingly, the Guardian recently starting actually moderating their threads and it has made a huge improvement to the quality of their threads.

  24. Mike says:

    I think most of the denier comments I see are from real people. Robots cannot be that dumb! There was an effort by S.G. to have his followers come here and bomb your site.

  25. Sometimes it is the real thing. A day after a couple of our stories at Cleantechnica were swarmed by visitors from Climatedepot (the denier site funded by Richard Scaife) my next post got two denials from the Heartland Institute itself:
    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/02/18/uk-will-pay-communities-to-host-wind-farms/

  26. Ted Gleichman says:

    Full disclosure: My real name is Theodore.*

    *Used only by my late mother when she was mad, the Transportation Security Administration, and my health-care provider’s computer system.

    On the message-through-humor side, I’m reminded of Garrison Keilor’s pre-election series in Prairie Home Companion in 2004, where he pretended to convert to the Republican Party. The theme was “We’re all Republicans now.”

    One of the better riffs (paraphrasing from memory) was:
    “When I was a Democrat, I used to get letters from Republicans saying, ‘You are the spawn of Satan and will burn in Hell forever.’ Now that I’m a Republican, I get letters from Democrats saying, ‘I’m so disappointed.’ It’s much easier to have Democrats mad at you.”

    The substantive message is that these are the continuing attacks on justice of those who would be happy with the real “F” word (Prokaryotes @21 well-earned frustration notwithstanding): fascism.

    The key challenge for democratic, constitutional civil society has always been how to deal with those who use openness and tolerance to destroy openness and tolerance. Should people who oppose the First Amendment have the right to exploit it?

    The short answer is yes, of course, but it’s tricky: Do you have right to shout “no fire” on a burning planet? (More another time on that.)

    And do you have the right to use intentionally-deceptive software to create online lies? Obviously not; that is clearly a form of fraud.

    I made a personal decision after the collapse of Copenhagen that, long term, my own individual security did not matter — that the traumas of the earth mandated standing up under my own name to call out the ‘evildoers’ — albeit reasonably politely and with respect for the ability of those who are well-meaning (or just terrified, but open to new information) to grow and change as they learn.

    It’s tough to be an object of hate, of course, as Keilor joked and as Michael Mann, Barack Obama, and (in another domain) Matthew Shepard could all testify.

    But it is so much more powerful and more ethical to speak openly and publicly from the head and heart, with the courage to face up to the forces of deception and destruction.

  27. Anna Haynes says:

    Capcha won’t help, really; you’ll just create a new job opportunity for the housebound, and maybe parrots&ravens.

    > I can’t be sure that they are bots. What should I do?

    If they’re local, organize a meetup for the opinionmongers. (which won’t guarantee that those who show up actually wrote what appeared under their names, but it is a step forward. I have found them astoundingly reluctant to appear face to face.)

    Also: blog comment forms need to be configurable to have a “true name” field, and disclosure/termsofservice fields, e.g “I solemnly swear that I wrote this myself, & if I didn’t, I’ll pay $X” – fields that are optional (& only if the bloghost wants them), but that – if present – the reader can filter on.

    It does make one even more dumbfounded by the obtuseness of blog hosts who act as though this stuff doesn’t matter.

  28. Malcreado says:

    >And a room full of capcha workers could take care of and blocks to access

    Exactly. You want them to have to go to that much effort. Which takes many people to make many posts. What you don’t want in one person to run a simple script making hundreds of seemingly different originated posts.

  29. Mimikatz says:

    It looks to me like the gov’t’s left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing. For every post on reducing oil as a national security issue there is one on how the gov’t is spying on comment threads. Big oil and the Koch Bros yes, but what’s really going on here?

    One good counter remains initiating discussions about climate at every opportunity to help validate people’s observations that things are indeed changing and not for the better. Every conversation and post that mentions the great crisis of Social Security in 2037 I remind people that climate and survival will be the big issues then, not SS.

    Help people hold on to reality and not get caught by the fake world peddled by the bad corps ( and not all are bad).

  30. paulm says:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/19/george-soros-glenn-beck-fox-news_n_825489.html
    “Speaking about Beck, Soros told Zakaria, “I would be amused if people saw the joke in it,” adding that he thinks Beck is “projecting” the views of Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News, and who Soros accused of “telling the people some falsehoods and leading the government in the wrong direction.”

    Soros said he thinks Fox News “has imported the methods of George Orwell, you know, newspeak, where you can tell the people falsehoods and deceive them.”

  31. Tom Street says:

    Why do I keep getting people who I have never heard of following my tweets?Are there robots out there constantly searching for people to follow in the hopes of gleaning some damning or inside information. I know anyone can follow anyone else and I understand why people seek out those people who are well known and famous. But I am nobody and I get followed.

    Anyone know why?

  32. John Mashey says:

    Richard mentions Vernor Vinge’s “True Nanes”, indeed a prescient story.
    For those who don’t know Vernor, he was long a computer science prof at San Diego State who wrote occasional science fiction, among the very best at using current research and extrapolating.
    As for people’s beliefs influencing what others perceive via the net, his latest book is Rainbow’s Ebd, highly recommended. I got him to give a fun keynote at Hot Chips, a few years ago, and took him to the Computer History Museum the next day, so (whether it not the singularity happens), I know he has interesting ideas always worth considering.

  33. Sue Jones says:

    Thanks for this exposé, I have long suspected something of this sort was going on. Would it be possible to beat them at their own game? While Captcha is useful up to a point- you do need to squint to get it-would it be possible to put a Botdetekt function up that marks suspected bot posts with a big red flashing asterisk warning sign? The bot poster could be then challenged and called out and the `persona´ behind the suspected bot post would then become entangled in its own skeins of deception while attempting to verify itself.

    We could call it `Gotcha´

    I am, on my honour, a real person.

  34. Hank Roberts says:

    > How do we know if those are real people?
    Does it even matter? Corporations are people, now, remember?
    One dollar, one opinion, and soon, one e-vote.
    (sigh)

  35. Rob C. says:

    VINDICATION! This attack contains the seeds of its own destruction, because it exposed the fraud of this disinformation campaign. Joe, is there anyone still working on a class-action suit against the industry? This looks like a smoking gun for fraud, doesn’t it?

    As you said in an earlier response, the strategic goal of this disinformation campaign is to create the appearance of “two sides to science.” But evidence like this makes it clear that what is really going on is an industry-funded disinformation campaign. 9–you want to know what to do about suspected sock puppets? Link them to the truth. Expose the falsehood in their talking points, and link to this post and others exposing this tactic and its source. Then link them to evidence of plutocrat funding for the campaign, so that each of their posts results in a link to the evidence exposing their campaign and its industry and GOP backers.

    Meanwhile we must lobby the blogs to install security measures and policies that ensure that those using this tactic are publicly exposed. Not just banned from the site. I think the idea of creating rapid online response teams is an excellent one. The teams need to be trained to identify denialist memes and expose them, and to communicate the threat of inaction and enormous benefits of addressing the climate crisis.

    But most importantly we must organize those of us who are outraged by this assault on our democratic society and our childrens’ future, and elect leaders who will refuse oil and coal lobby campaign money and address the climate crisis. Lets’ start Climate Hawk MeetUp groups in every region of the country.

  36. Rob C. says:

    On a related note, there was an article not too long ago in the NYT about JCPenny’s online PR firm’s ham-handed attempt to manipulate Google in order to come up artificially high in search engine results.

    I applied that logic to looking at denialist websites. I typed in “reality gobal warming.” Look at result number six, and notice the large list of links to Flikr pages.

    Google takes a very dim view at this sort of manipulation. Might be worth some more investigation…

  37. Susan Anderson says:

    re New York Times, note that when an article about climate appears in a new venue, the proportion of intelligent comment to denier boilerplate is pretty much what you’d expect with a liberal eastern newspaper – that is, at least 90% clear as clear. On DotEarth, comments are biased slightly towards fake skeptics/deniers/propagandists/disinformationalists. This is also true of other public uncensored venues like The Guardian (Monbiot) and BBC (Black). All public blogs are infested with these critters.

    This is not an accident. At DotEarth, for example, it is possible for a dedicated group of 5-10 regulars and a larger gallery to dominate the discussion, to the point that people who come to share in the conversation often leave in disgust.

    Of course it is manipulated. There are very few people who have the time and energy to post so often in so many venues.

  38. Susan Anderson says:

    Then there are the not so innocent, but not entirely guilty, parties like, near the bottom, Judith Curry who has bought fame and fortune by not following through on real science, and at a much higher level, Andrew Revkin who seems interested in the meta aspects to the exclusion of practical consequences.

    I think Andy, whom I like quite a bit, has been fooled by the legions that dominate his comment sections and the people who are sympathetic to his reporters dilemma, like Pielke and Kloor, and has an all too human desire to wake up and find out it was all a nightmare and wasn’t true.

    Attacking these people for being dishonest can backfire, as their motives and thoughts are complex. I know everyone should be armored against insult, but when your own guys attack you, it’s human to find comfort with the enemy.

  39. Florifulgurator says:

    Well, the internets is 99% spam, nonsense and madness. The waste of human intelligence is tragicomic. You need to be able to sort this out.

    E.g. I once read comments at Dot Earth, even wrote some myself. You quickly learn whom to ignore (e.g. the paradigmatic “wmar”, and most comments with high “recommended” scores). In more serious or sophisticated discussions it is easy to sort out who is serious (resp. is to be taken serious). You learn the names and filter out most of the rest.

  40. Prokaryotes says:

    Are they affiliated?

    Massive Censorship Of Digg Uncovered

    A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives. An undercover investigation has exposed this effort, which has been in action for more than one year.

    “The more liberal stories that were buried the better chance conservative stories have to get to the front page. I’ll continue to bury their submissions until they change their ways and become conservatives.”
    -phoenixtx (aka vrayz)

    Digg.com is the powerhouse of social media websites. It is ranked 50th among US websites by Alexa (117th in the world), by far the most influential social media site. It reached one million users in 2007 and likely has more than tripled that by this point. Digg generates around 25 million page views per month, over one third of the page views of the NY Times. Front page stories regularly overwhelm and temporarily shut down websites in a process called the “Digg Effect.”

    The concept behind the site is simple. Submitted webpages (news, videos, or images) can be voted up (digging) or down (burying) by each user, sort of a democracy in the internet model. If an article gets enough diggs, it leaves the upcoming section and reaches the front page where most users spend their time, and can generate thousands of page views.

    This model also made it very susceptible to external gaming whereby users from certain groups attempt to push their viewpoint or articles to the front page to give them traction. This was evident with the daily spamming of the upcoming Political section with white supremacist material from the British National Party (articles which rarely reached the front page). The inverse of this effect is more devastating however. Bury brigades could effectively remove stories from the upcoming sections by collectively burying them.

    One bury brigade in particular is a conservative group that has become so organized and influential that they are able to bury over 90% of the articles by certain users and websites submitted within 1-3 hours, regardless of subject material. Literally thousands of stories have already been artificially removed from Digg due to this group.
    http://blogs.alternet.org/oleoleolson/2010/08/05/massive-censorship-of-digg-uncovered/

  41. Anonymity on the internet is a scourge. It allows people to behave badly in ways that they never would in person. There are a few cases, like for whistle blowers, where anonymity is appropriate, but for the most part it is just a shield for bad behavior.

    Sites that allow comment posting should require real names. At some point it may make sense even to require authenticated names, especially for email, to make life much harder for spammers, but you could imagine it for posting comments to a site as well.

    I know there is a history of anonymity on the Internet, but it comes from the days back when there were only a small number of geeks doing their thing, and people were generally quite well behaved. Those days are over…

  42. Tony O'Brien says:

    I hate captcha but you may have to do it. Real names, you may have to do that also. I suspected bots in many cases, but was never quite sure. The replies to comments that are irrelavent to the comment in question or even to the article.

    I am Rabid Doomsayer. Although nature is going faster than my pessimistic guesses, so that moniker is no longer as relavent.

  43. Wit's End says:

    Maybe the lesson in all this is that rather than slogging it out on the blogs – another failed strategy – we should be bringing the fight (metaphorical!) into the streets.

    Although the Kochs can pay a certain number of goons to counter-demonstrate, it’s still harder to fake large numbers of supporters when actual bodies are required. That’s what happened at Rancho Mirage. They canceled a tea-party presence when it became apparent that it would be embarrassingly puny.

    So, instead of discussing CAPTCHA, maybe we should be talking about

    1. Our plan to call Obama- and to encourage others to call – on Tuesday morning to demand a speech on national teevee about climate change as suggested by Roger in an earlier thread (202-456-1111); and

    2. Plan and commit to the next demonstration in Washington. Eaarth Day 2011?

    Anything else is mere whining.

  44. Prokaryotes says:

    “I know there is a history of anonymity on the Internet, but it comes from the days back when there were only a small number of geeks doing their thing, and people were generally quite well behaved. Those days are over…”

    SInce they introduced these bots and orchestrated opinion manipulative tools. Some are characteristic for ad hominem attacks and here a blame is on the website blog admin or yourtube. They need to ban user AND the corresponding user IP’s .

    That will lead to a lot of banned VPN IP’s. That was done by wikipedia btw.

    In the future VPN business have to watch whom they grant access to VPN.

  45. Prokaryotes says:

    Actually the people who investigate this group can pin down exactly which VPN IP’s are used and it would be easy to create a blog tool which once installed banns user automatically who are identified with the IP in question.

    Actually you can do this even without investigation, all you require is the comment IP log.

  46. Lou Grinzo says:

    WE (42): I agree. I’ve been saying for some time that the right action is to flood Washington DC and every state capital in the US with so many people on the same day that it becomes a gigantic, multi-cycle news story.

    But how one gets Americans to haul themselves off their couches and give up their current addiction — sports porn, food porn, electronics porn, porn porn, etc. — long enough to commit to something like that is a whole other issue. We’ve become a society that thinks the most noble thing we can do is use the Internet to find better deals on smartphones, 55″ TVs, and SUVs.

    I’ve tried many times, and failed miserably, to get people I know to take just a few minutes to read an article or flip through a really well done (not by me) PowerPoint deck, and the result is virtually always the same. The vast majority “don’t have the time” (translation: I don’t give a flying fig about your “special interest” and can’t even be bothered humoring you about it), or they do give it a shot, their brain flinches in horror at the implications, and they say, “well, isn’t that interesting”, and then they change the topic or run away. This is a gigantic problem, as getting the already committed to do something means you’re dealing with a very tiny minority, far too small to achieve anything. It will take a huge impact to mainstream Americans before they’re moved to action. E.g. the way years of political corruption, economic suffering, and suddenly higher food prices triggered uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Two of the few blogs I bother to peruse, The Guardian’s Comment is Free and the ABC’s The Drum Unleashed have been swarmed not just by denialists, but by Rightists in general. And I think it is plain that not only are the Rightists organised in some way, perhaps even artificially created, but they are aided and abetted by the so-called ‘moderators’. Comment is Free at least allows it to be seen where comments have been deleted or not allowed, but The Drum is utterly dishonest and partial, in my opinion at least, because there is no trace of comments censored, and those allowed, then removed, are removed in real Stalinist fashion, simply air-brushed without trace.
    And, with anthropogenic climate change a clear example, Rightwing trolls are favoured to an undeniable degree. Real idiots, real ignoramuses, are allowed to post over and over, but the climate realists, the scientifically literate who can easily expose these imbecilities seem, mysteriously, to have lost the appetite for the fight. Occasionally you see one of these realists complain of having most of their comments censored, and I know from personal experience, that 90% never appear, particularly those that directly answer some pet denialist’s disinformation. The ideological bias is plain, and who can be surprised? The ABC was ideologically cleansed in the late 1990s under John Howard, and the Board stacked with Rightwingers (some recruited direct from the Murdoch apparat)who immediately and vociferously attacked the ABC’s ‘bias’ towards the ‘alarmists’. And the bias, amongst others, against climate science became plain immediately, as with the Board’s demand that the notorious fraud The Great Global Warming Swindle be broadcast over the objections of the ABC’s Science Department. The so-called “Labor” regimes since 2007 have done nothing whatsoever about this bias. It’s bad enough in regard to climate science, but in regard to hatred of Moslems, where we are at present undergoing a ferocious surge in real hatred, for clear political purposes, it encompasses and allows hate speech the likes of which I’ve never seen before in this country. As I’ve noted before, hardly a great insight, the Right is undergoing a sort of collective mental breakdown as all its nostrums concerning the world and the purpose of human life are revealed as poisonous imbecility, and they are reacting, as one would expect, by growing ever more vicious, as they are learning in Wisconsin.

  48. Daniel J. Andrews says:

    Sites that allow comment posting should require real names. At some point it may make sense even to require authenticated names, especially for email, to make life much harder for spammers, but you could imagine it for posting comments to a site as well.

    I disagree. I rely on industry, university and government contracts for work. A google search of my pseudonym shows I’m sometimes a bit vocal in certain areas (climate, evolution, resource management, wildlife population, monitoring). This outspokeness, if under my real name, could lose me contracts because, for example, they don’t want anyone outspoken, they are denialists themselves, they agree with me but they don’t want to risk offending prospective clients (mining, forestry) they’re annoyed because I sometimes show the emperor has no clothes (e.g. in my field, politicians say they have implemented program X, and I point out “yes, they have, but they neglected to give enough money so program X can do actual work”).

    In a few cases, I’ve written letters in our local paper releasing scientific findings that the government has forbade the scientists from talking about. The government media folks then have a choice of lying or lifting the ban.

    Get a reputation as a trouble-maker, jobs will be harder to come by.

    And even if none of that were relevant I’d still want a pseudonym because people like Watts are bullies who cyberstalk you, and give your personal information out to their minions, who may then send hate-mail (by email and by post), take pictures of your house, your kids, their school, leave dead animals on your doorstep, etc.

    There are far too many ideologues who are convinced they have the ‘truth’ and who will stop at nothing when it comes to dealing with the ‘enemies’ of the truth. So pseudonyms are sometimes very necessary if you need to protect your family.

    Having said that, I do try and post so as not to be ashamed of anything I’ve posted if my nym is connected with my real name.

  49. Wit's End says:

    Hey Lou thanks, but I’m wasn’t referencing the average FAUX-news-watching American couch potato, the Ignorers, I call them.

    I’m talking about Climate Progress readers. And scientists!

    How about we all agree (is it 200 of us? or 1500? or maybe even 3000?) to go to the Washington Mall and chain ourselves, together, to the White House fence, and just sit there until the media has to interview qualified spokespersons like Gavin Schmidt, and Joe Romm, and Jim Hansen, and MIchael Mann, and John Cook and Greenman? Okay, even maybe Bill McKibben.

    WHY aren’t we all, collectively, plotting something along this line, are we going to wait until it is CERTAIN that our children will die in horrific circumstances to mobilize rather than pontificate?

    just askin’!

  50. Eli Rabett says:

    So who stole the UEA CRU emails? This puts an entirely different spin on that theft.

  51. Sam says:

    You can bypass CAPTCHA with some effort and I believe spammers are already doing this.

    For example, you employ some people in India that receive the CAPTCHA images and they have to write the answer. They do not interact with the climate change gaming, they have a specialized application that shows them the CAPTCHA. They submit the answer and the rest of the gaming software continues with the post.
    I have heard that this is actually done in India.

    Oh, here is an example, http://freelance.geekinterview.com/94860-captcha-work-india-amp-philippines.html

  52. Scott says:

    huffingtonpost is rife with these guys.

  53. Sam says:

    Just google for ‘captcha jobs’ and you get loads of results.

    These people are so stingy that they pay $1 for 1000 correct CAPTCHA results. Wow!

  54. Prokaryotes says:

    Re Susan Kraemer

    Polluter-Funded GOP to IPCC – No Money for You!
    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/02/19/polluter-funded-gop-to-ippc-no-money-for-you/

    Look at the cpmments … not one of them is there because of the excellent clean tech news coverage. Makes me really sad to see that humans do everything possible to destroy our future. And for what – look at the cartoon from said article. Somehow some people have the illusion that they can bend the forces of gravity with propaganda and newspeak.

    If we do not act NOW on the problem we lose everything. The world is about to sink into chaos and civilization collapse lingers … and the only solution is action to reduce pollution.

  55. Joan Savage says:

    Climate Progress comments remind me of the conversations that went on in the 1760s and 1770s among Americans and French intellectuals who were getting clearer and clearer about the crucial issues of their time. Like they, we understand the need for public communication that is not overwhelmed by deceitful counter-measures.

    Wit’s End (#43) is on the right track. Apparently seventy percent of Americans accept that we are facing climate change (sorry about not digging up the poll with supporting data). The majority view has yet to translate into legislative agenda, or a common voice.

    Over on NYTs dotearth are a pair of videos about an encounter between Mark Hertsgaard (“Hot”) and Senator Inhofe (R-OK). In the conversation, the senator said, “The science is mixed,” and added,”The economy is not mixed.” Because Hertsgaard’s focus was on climate, the unexpectedly revealing second comment by the senator slipped past.

    From the view of the Oklahoma senator, the economy is not mixed. But for others, the economy is mixed, and likely to be forced to be more mixed by the circumstances of energy use and climate change. That is something that the public notices.

    I may be trying to gather too much in a short message. Defending against automated internet attacks is understandable, though not my chief focus at the moment.

  56. FredT34 says:

    To me, this graph http://www.google.com/trends?q=global+warming&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all&sort=0 from “Google Trends” demonstrates that many guys in the poor Philippines are paid to track any post on these topics and to counter-react by posting BS.

    Joe, can’t you geo-analyze the IPs from the deniers and trolls (alghough they may hide their addresses behing proxies)?

  57. Mike Roddy says:

    Eli:

    Circumstantial evidence points to the Kochs, since the CRU emails turned up on a secure Russian server. The Kochs have contacts in Russia with Gazprom, dating back to when Fred Koch built refineries for Stalin. Motive, means, opportunity, and diabolical intent are all there.

    Nobody will ever prove it, of course. If someone went to Russia to sniff around, he would be killed.

  58. Cody says:

    I am a little offended that you are calling these people “conservatives.” This distorts the true picture of what conservatives are. We are a group of mostly God loving, traditional, hard working people who just want to live honest lives. We do not believe in utopias, but we are willing to work hard to make the present as good as it can possibly be. Amassing enormous credit debt and, in general, being rich without having produced anything, is not something we want.

    Here is a crash course on American conservatism: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0ywDLpfBHg

  59. Hank Roberts says:

    > pin down exactly which VPN IP’s are used

    We need a smarter answer to this, because moving to shut off ways to communicate privately plays right into the hands of those who want to be able to identify individuals and how they think (and perhaps fake or compromise their communications).

    Maybe something like the spammer block-lists — where sites voluntarily compare the sources they identify as corrupt, and after some number of bad posts in a given time they’re put on a blocklist. Something smarter than that is needed.

  60. Prokaryotes says:

    Hank Roberts i agree, though people would be still able to surf the internets, just not post at the websites with black listed IP’s. That is the quick fix.

    The best “smart” solution would be if federal agencies shut down the work of these groups. Reason = National Security. This will happen anyway. Better start acting now, rather than later – judging from a risk assessment viewpoint.

    Remeber
    THERE IS NO SINGLE ARGUMENT FROM THE ORCHESTRATED CAMPAIGN WHICH REFUTES THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

    The life of your children is at stake.

  61. Stop ! Must see Web – TV

    Time to see the series video called ModerationTown

    http://www.moderationtown.com/

    “Small town in Nova Scotia decides to find work moderating web blogs”

  62. Jan says:

    Yes, I would like to stay at least half anonymous for now.

    And it is because of this type of behavior that I think it might be a smart thing to do, because I would be surprised if similar things were not being done in the field of automated name/email/text data gathering and analysis. Maybe for different purposes though, and I can’t name a specific case.

    How sadly ironic to imagine a lonely human at these organisations spending his day answering captcha questions, while numerous bots are firing away “discussing” the important political issues of our time.

    Also ironic to think that the technology be at least as suited to the progressive side: Given the often somewhat monotonous nature of climate science denial, it should be rather easy to produce (even decent) automated responses (say to keywords like “hockey stick myth” or “Climategate” or the “30.000 scientists” or whatever).

    Anybody wanna develop and deploy the science-savvy progressive debunking bot?

  63. Scott says:

    Stop the Bots!

  64. Jan says:

    On a different note, this and the whole astro-turfing business reminds me of a university class on opinion research that I took recently. Among other things, we discussed the “Spiral of Silence” theory by the late German public opinion guru Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann.

    As far as I recall it basically says that someone who perceives his opinion as being in the minority (no matter if that is actually the case) will be less ready to keep voicing this opinion or might even change it (or even his vote).

    If the theory is correct, an interested party (who would come to mind?) could use hired vocal mouthpieces or even the “virtual masses” of opinionated bots to distort the perceived distribution of public opinion, thus encouraging their own side to be more outspoken and intimidating the other side into being more quiet (or even changing their opinion).

  65. Villabolo says:

    I’ve always thought that there was a ‘boiler room’ operation orchestrated by deniers. Whether it was a youtube video or some neutral website with an article on Global Warming, the crazies always got there the “fastest with the mostest”.

    A suggestion.

    Next time we post on a site that seems inundated with denier posts we should briefly indicate, before making our point, what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. Then, we should post a link to this article.

  66. Jay Alt says:

    64./62. Jan – Yes I think that’s a major part of their effort, to increase the social comfort zone encouraging the public to diss scientists and responsible behavior. And your reasons to remain quasi-anonymous are valid and important to many people, myself included.
    Third, automation helps obstructionists find climate/energy news articles early and steer the responses into directions that dead-end good ideas or talk about taking action. So- sign up for the forums you visit and post positive replies early and ignore their rabbit hole traps.

  67. Sam says:

    @FredT34: The CAPTCHA decoding that the Indians or Philipinos are doing does not appear in the Web server logs. It is the IP address of the “persona management software” that shows up, most probably located in the US.

    So, you can gather the IP addresses of those denier posters and try to extract their location. It should be the offices of the pr companies. I doubt they would outsource this task so people can do at home, as it would lead to a leak.

    Watch PBS Frontline “Merchants of Cool”. It shows a young guy “working” at a PR company office, posting on a forum to drum up support for selected artists.

  68. DavidCOG says:

    Davos:

    > You’re going to find that all ideologies have their hands in this.

    No. There is no evidence that climate realists (or any progressive groups) are paying ‘security’ firms to set up networks of bots and sockpuppets to create a false impression of widespread support for their beliefs and communication of the science.

    There is no evidence that the progressive climate movement is anything other than what it is – a massive groundswell of informed and concerned citizens all around the planet.

    > For every climategate hacker, there’s an “Anonymous” hacker destroying HBGary’s operations and delivering the juicy stuff to CAP.

    Anonymous did not destroy HBGary’s reputation – they did it themselves with incompetence that exposed their dishonesty and possibly illegal activities.

  69. Michael says:

    Re: captchas:

    Even sites that require registration, as opposed to what CP provides, even if a captcha was required, are overrun by deniers. One good example – just look at Dr. Masters’ blog on Weather Underground, which requires you to register in order to post comments. Also, comments, while not moderated, can be flagged and rated down (so they are hidden by default), and those who cause too much disruption get banned, some permanently – not that this stops them since they can easily make another account.

  70. Mike says:

    @Cody #58,

    It is a liberal blog so they do tend to lump all conservatives together. Try not to take it too personally. But it is true that some extremists people and groups have pretty much co-opted the conservative mantel for their own purposes. You might find this site of interest:

    http://www.rep.org/

    I define conservatism as the proposition that the hope for our future lies in the strength of our traditions. While I am not a conservative myself, I do see real value in this outlook. But when it becomes a cover for ignoring scientific findings or disparaging the cultural traditions of others then it becomes regressive or reactionary.

  71. David B. Benson says:

    Use

    Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway
    Merchants of Doubt
    http://www.merchantsofdoubt.org/

    Massimo Pigliucci
    Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
    University of Chicago Press, 2010

    to counter the CRUD purveyors.

  72. Richard Brenne says:

    I think the deniers sending out these lying messages of disinformation in bad faith will ultimately (regardless of which lifetime) say to themselves “My God, what have I done?” when, like Alec Guinness’ Colonel Nicholson at the end of “The Bridge On the River Kwai” they realize that their obsession has only brought about a great evil.

    In Colonel Nicholson’s case he and his imprisoned soldiers (he was English, in a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Thailand during WWII) was aiding and abetting the enemy by building them a key bridge to improve the moral of his men and to not require officers to do manual labor.

    In the case of those denying climate change and other inconvenient truths, they will have brought down global civilization and perhaps, if Jim Hansen is right, all life on what was once a magical planet.

    That should send a quiver down to their very souls, but then the odds of a bot or denier having a soul appear about equal.

  73. Merrelyn Emery says:

    #43 Wit’s End. I know it seems the right thing to do, tell the President to tackle climate change and the deniers head on but I’m sure it’s not. That is the strategy of the direct approach and while it is the strategy that is best known in your culture, it can be a sure recipe for a loss.

    Before you engage in that very risky strategy, you have to be absolutely certain that you can win. Does the President have the resources to win, including the hearts and minds and energy of the American people to back him up. If he doesn’t and he loses, you have lost the one and only chance you might have in a long time.

    The president made it perfectly clear in his SOTU address that he is playing to win. He is playing the strategy of the indirect approach. I know I have mentioned it here somewhere before but now more than ever before, it is the right strategy for the times as they appear to be over there.

    You lost the Vietnam war to the strategy of the indirect approach and are currently losing Afghanistan in the same way. We can’t afford to lose the climate war. Give him time. Demos are OK and it will only be a matter of time before the USA suffers a disaster that nobody can ignore. Then migh be the time for a direct attack but I really don’t think it is now, ME

  74. Roger says:

    Joe,
    Again, many wonderful comments above, and on the weekend threads. Nice work, all!

    Thanks for reposting this very important story: We are being cleverly manipulated by some of the best psyops alums that fossil-dollars can buy. Now that these same dollars are also buying elections wholesale, we are having our democracy stolen right from under our noses. Like climate change, it’s so stealthy that most folks don’t even have a clue!

    I knew all of the denier comments couldn’t be authentic: Wherever I read them, although the names would vary, the language and vocabulary had a weird similarity. Also, I noted their inhuman persistence and their seemingly unlimited time to post endless variations of long-ago-rebutted criticisms of AGW. We are up against some extremely evil brothers!

    When I hear what heretofore-peaceful-but-repressed citizens are doing in the Middle East to try to gain a bit more democracy—some baring their chests to live bullets, others being shot by snipers while they mourn—it makes me angry to see what little we who know the truth about our hell and high water climate future have been willing to do so far.

    Give me a break: How many multiples of importance would you place on: 1) Having a livable climate for an entire planet, compared to 2) Having democracy in any one of a dozen countries in the ME? My own answer: I’d say a multiple of about a million to one.

    So, for the climate that is a million times MORE important (IMHO, looking at the history of humans on Eaarth), than the democracy for which fellow humans are being SHOT, what do we do? We type comments at Climate Progress, and presumably say to ourselves, “There!” “That should help!” “How did you like ‘them apples’ you nasty Koch brothers who are engineering the end of a livable climate?” “Wait ‘til my next one!”

    Here’s my question: Have we lost all sense of social justice and responsibility—even for our very own futures? Does the fact that climate change consequences aren’t yet clearly enough labeled stop us from acting, even though scientists’ predictions are all coming true—and generally ahead of schedule? Are we, indeed, too ‘fat, dumb, and happy’ to want to risk taking a minute from NOW to preserve a FOREVER later this decade?

    If Patrick Henry could say “Give me liberty or give me death,” well, damn it, I say, “Give me a livable climate or give me death!” And yes, while I’m at it, let me add, “I regret that I have but one life to give for my climate!” People, for God’s sake, wake up! It’s getting to be the time where comments aren’t enough. This is a gosh darn, honest-to-goodness, life-or-death threat that we’re up against, and we’re losing the battle–largely because we have not yet begun to fight. What’s it going to take to get us started?

    Well, for starters, since we (supposedly) already HAVE democracy, why don’t we ALL ASK our chief executive officer, President Barack Obama, to do something that is logical and simple, and that is in his power to do almost overnight: Inform misinformed Americans about the climate problem so that they will understand our need to act now.

    My thanks to Leif (#20) to Gail (#43) for their earlier endorsements of this suggestion/ ORDER, that every good CP reader actually pick up their phone and dial President Obama’s comment line (202-456-1111) on Tuesday morning, asking him to please go on prime-time, national TV to clearly inform misinformed Americans about the reality, importance, and urgency of our dealing with climate change NOW. Our goal is to give him the political will to go out and take this all-important step now, before it’s too late.

    NOTE: If the comment line is repeatedly busy, please call the White House Switchboard at 202-456-1414, telling them that you can’t get through to the comment line, and asking them if they can please add more operators, as you’ve been unable to reach 456-1111.

    For everyone who joins me in taking this small-but-important step, thank you! For those who make excuses, shame on you! Was it not worth the risk, or the 25-cent cost? Or were you worried that a stray bullet (rubber or otherwise) might hit you (just kidding)?

    Oh, I also agree with Gail, and others, who have said we need to have our presence felt in Washington, and elsewhere. GWEN will be introducing a new GoTheLimit campaign soon—a new, all-American form of NVDA that could be just the thing to turn the tide.

    Warm regards,
    Roger

  75. Marion Delgado says:

    I second everything Daniel J. Andrews said.

  76. ToddInNorway says:

    Would it be possible to “label” every bot response as being a fake, and showing them to everyone as such?

  77. Roger says:

    Merrelyn (#72) says: “You lost the Vietnam War to the strategy of the indirect approach and are currently losing Afghanistan in the same way. We can’t afford to lose the climate war.”

    I say, “Always change a losing game.” Logically, it seems you should also be arguing for a direct approach since we keep losing with the indirect approach. (Possibly I misunderstand your argument?)

    In any case, there’s an even stronger reason for being direct with Obama, and also for Obama being direct with American citizens. Namely, there is a closing window of opportunity for we humans to properly deal with climate change, after which time we will have crossed tipping points that make further action futile. (We don’t want to go there.)

    As one who has spent a long career judging rates of progress towards established goals, and estimating the likelihood of success in reaching those goals, I can tell you, based on my scientific knowledge, my forecasting experience and my business judgment: we need to have informed citizens working together to pull this one out of the fire, so to speak. I’m sorry, but it simply won’t be possible to get the job done ‘behind American backs,’ without their knowledge of the fact that the problem is real, urgent, and important.

    Just look at what’s happening in our government today. Instead of strengthening our relevant laws, the new, fossil fuel industry-favored members of our House of Representatives are defunding our EPA. We are going backwards at just the time when we need to go full speed ahead.

    We in the climate movement have been far too timid. We need to be direct. We need to be demanding. We need our president to LEAD!

    In fact, I’ll go out on a limb and make a prediction: If we can’t get President Obama to give a “State of the Climate” address to inform misinformed Americans and get real solutions on track by this time next year, the odds of avoiding hell and high water are roughly ten percent. Also, geoengineering will be called into play, only to ultimately fail.

    What are we waiting for?

    Warm regards,
    Roger

  78. Matt says:

    Mulga Mumblebrain, comment 47:

    You are spot on regarding the ABC comments. I’d go one step further than you however and state, emphatically, it is not just The Drum or The Drum: Unleashed. This interference occurs on the main ABC news site as well. I’ve noticed posts that give information on the science and/or address erroneous claims by others do not get published. In addition to this after having comments declined by the moderators I have found myself unable to view any comments at all unless I remove browser cookies and LSOs.

    If commenting anywhere on the ABC site I recommend keeping copies of all comments, along with date, time, URL of original article/story, copy of article/story and comments made by others for future reference.

    I’ve had enough of this interference and will be keeping meticulous records and making long, drawn out detailed complaints.

  79. John Mason says:

    “Richard D says:
    February 20, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Anyone tried using text mining software to analyse these blogs? I have tried rapidminer and GATE – but it’s no really my area. I was due to some of George Monbiot’s articles with over 1000 comments – they couldn’t all be genuine – the only way to counter that would be more automated ways of analysis – and perhaps finding strong evidence where there are denial bots.”

    This is something George, myself and others have been concerned about over here for some time now – an article is posted on the Guardian site and in less time than it takes to read the title an avalanche of denialist talking-points sometimes appears. I forwarded him the Daily Kos link yesterday after someone on Deltoid posted it.

    The Guardian have recently made some changes to their moderation policy which mean that any deviation from the topic at hand results in a good chance of a post being removed. It’s an improvement, but I am still left wondering if there are any better filtration methods. I don’t mind debating the issues with real people with an axe to grind, but I don’t like to think I’m wasting time arguing with a bit of software!!

    Cheers – John

  80. Sime says:

    This is far from new within the Computer Science world. As a systems administrator you see kind of drivel every day be it web comments or blue pill spam etc.

    A gentleman by the name of Nigel Leck, a software developer, recently got pissed off constantly having to respond to the incessant flow of denialist drivel on Twitter so he wrote a counter program (script) that does the reverse of the software mentioned in this article and auto debates the “Climate Cowboys” drivel.

    As in any war both sides create weapons and over time the technology used escalates. As the “Climate Cowboys” get more and more desperate they will stop at nothing in their vain attempt to deny the reality of climate change.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/mimssbits/25964/

    As Dr Romm often says “You ain’t seen nothing yet”

  81. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Matt #75, thank-you for backing my assertions. As Kissinger observed even paranoiacs have real enemies, but my own paranoid tendencies were exacerbated by the ABC ‘moderators’ behaviour. There is also, as well as discernible bias to denialists, evidenced by multiple comments from rather florid examples of Dunning Krugerism (who must be busy bees)being allowed (not to mention some really hate filled comments on other subjects)an also plain difference from day to day, even hour to hour. Obviously some ‘moderators’ are more ideologically zealous than others. And some topics, eg climate disruption and anything to do with Israel, are policed with real rigour.

  82. Matt says:

    Apologies in advance if this is slightly off-topic…

    Mulga Mumblebrain: it’s not just the moderation that is at play re the ABC either. A look at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/bias-at-the-netional-broadcaster-is-as-easy-as-abc/story-fn59niix-1226009060141
    shows another prime example of the continued attempt to inhibit healthy honest discussion on the matter while promoting denialists as credible sources of information. As a bonus for Murdoch the peice linked earlier in my comment also continues News Corps war against our national broadcaster. Increasing pressure is being applied to numerous sources of climate change information in Australia. The call for an audit of the Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO By Joanne Nova and co. being another recent example.

  83. Lewis C says:

    Merrelyn –

    perhaps you could clarify why the ‘indirect’ strategy failed in Vietnam and Afghanistan ? A million dead Vietnamese would doubtless have liked the chance to learn the difference, as you see it, from the alternative ‘direct’ strategy.

    With Obama having adopted the Cheyney-Bush policies of a ‘Brinkmanship of Inaction’ with China by reneging on Kyoto (not presenting it for ratification)
    and of reneging on the Berlin Mandate (that Annexe II nations would not be asked to make emissions cuts until Annexe I nations had done so as the initiators of the climate problem),
    and of reneging on the UNFCCC treaty that all negotiations would use 1990 as the baseline (by unilaterally adopting 2005 instead),
    it is hard to follow your claim that “he is playing to win”.

    Perhaps you are unaware that the Whitehouse initiated at least five well documented actions to prevent the climate bill having any chance at all of success in the Senate ? The last being lying to Fox News that the bill would include a Gas Tax ? Joe did a fine report on the New Yorker article detailing the sequence of events, which may be of interest.

    You may also be unaware that Obama has provided the US public with less than one sentence a month on climate since he took office. The most telling indication of his inherited policy of total inaction is his disdaining even the easiest of policy options, being a broad public education campaign (which the ~70% who accept the science would be very glad of), and the exposure of the corrupt financing of denialism (which would be simplicity itself for the FBI & NSA given the national security implications of the climate issue).

    From my reading of “The Art of War” I do not recall any such crude limitation on strategy as being either wholly direct or indirect. Neither arbitrary option meshes with the fact that Obama neglects even to support and nurture public commitment to the necessary future transformation, nor with the fact that he clearly and very publicly snubbed the BRIC nations at Copenhagen. Perhaps you weren’t aware that his take-it-or-leave-it offer to China amounted to a demand that each American should have three times the pollution rights of each Chinese – in forty years time ?

    From the evidence I don’t think your assertion that he’s ‘playing to win’ is credible – his nationalism has the zeal of an immigrant, and he’s playing to prolong American dominance as long as possible, with little indication of any regard for the calamity this will engender. If China were broken, politically or materially, by climatic destabilization in the coming years, and were thus forced to accept the tyrannical terms offered, you might well see him claiming to have resolved the issue. Is that perhaps what you mean by ‘winning’ ?

    Regards,

    Lewis

  84. Stephen Watson says:

    Joe, you said:

    “And consensus is a powerful persuader. What has more effect, one guy saying BP is not at fault? Or 20 people saying it? For the weak minded, the number can make all the difference.”

    but

    “… it matters to me what fellow progressives think. I consider all views. And if there appears to be a consensus that some reporter isn’t credible, for example, or some candidate for congress in another state can’t be trusted, I won’t base my entire judgment on it, but it carries some weight.”

    I’m not clear what you are saying here.

    As for the thrust of the article, always remember that truth really is stranger than fiction.

  85. JonS says:

    No. 47, Mulga, I agree. Please note:

    ‘Perhaps there is a clue here, in a speech given on March 11th, 2010 by ABC chairman Maurice Newman to ABC journalists, program-makers and managers:

    Climate change is a further example of group-think where contrary views have not been tolerated, and where those who express them have been labelled and mocked. In his ABC Online blog last October Chris Uhlmann wrote a piece called In praise of the sceptics. ‘“Climate science we are endlessly told is “settled”’ he wrote. “But to make the, perfectly reasonable, point that science is never settled risks being branded a “sceptic” or worse a “denier”…one of those words, like “racist”, which is deliberately designed to gag debate…You can be branded a denier if you accept the problem and question the solutions.”

    This collective censorious approach succeeded in suppressing contrary views in the mainstream media, despite the fact that a growing number of distinguished scientists were challenging the conventional wisdom with alternative theories and peer reviewed research.

    Then came the sensational revelations of unprofessional conduct by some of the world’s most influential climatologists exposed by the hacked or leaked emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Institute. This was followed by more evidence of dubious research and politicised advocacy contained in scientifically unsupported claims and errors in the IPCC 4th Assessment, including in the carefully vetted Synthesis Report. Questionable methods of analysis resulting in spurious temperature data have added further doubts on the underlying credibility of the science.

    The lack of moral and scientific integrity shown by the IPCC serves only to reduce clarity and increase confusion, disappoint believers and give fuel to doubters. It has frustrated policy makers, and as polling now shows, it has clearly weakened public belief in climate change and devalued respect for science in general.

    In defending the indefensible, Mr Gore, university vice-chancellors and those in the media, do a disservice to the scientific method and miss the point that no matter how noble your work, your first responsibility must always be to the truth.’

    (From:http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/maurice-newman-speech/story-e6frg996-1225839427099 )

    Also:

    ‘…in 2007, Robert Manne writing in The Age, noted;

    The long campaign has been conducted by Quadrant and The Australian; by think tanks such as the Institute of Public Affairs [IPA] and the Centre for Independent Studies; by right-wing populist columnists; and by left-bias-sniffing Coalition blood-hounds such as Santo Santoro and Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Crucial support has, however, been given by the Howard Government. To help bring the ABC to heel, it appointed three of the most strident right-wing cultural warriors in Australia, Ron Brunton, Janet Albrechtsen and Keith Windschuttle, to the ABC board. To ensure that the new board’s proceedings could be conducted in secret, the Government abolished the staff-elected post.


    The newly appointed managing director, Mark Scott, gracefully conceded defeat. The ABC was, he admitted, not as innocent of bias as its defenders claimed. Under his leadership, he promised, the ABC would at last become truly “impartial”. Implicitly, impartiality replaced independence as the core value of the ABC.


    Scott did not explain what he meant by impartiality.


    Media Watch was sometimes unbalanced and unfair, usually intelligent and witty, always fearless and tough. No program more effectively tracked the steady drift of the political culture to the right. No program more effectively scrutinised the politics and practices of the contemporary commercial mainstream media — the rise of commentariat Islamophobia, the scandal of “cash for comment”. The fact that it was not “impartial” was the key to its unpopularity in certain quarters, but also to its importance and success.

    In the new ABC, a program such as Media Watch clearly has no place. While its decline has been gradual, with Mark Scott’s promised reform the process is complete. This year we have witnessed little but minor examples of plagiarism, or of trivial commercial conflicts of interest, or of unimportant examples of journalistic failure to double-check a source. (On Monday it concerned misleading comments concerning the killing of a young bear.) The ABC has been criticised (over nothing much) as frequently as the Murdoch press. Right-wing commentators have been given a wide berth. The program has lost its political nerve. While Media Watch is now impartial, it is also inconsequential.’
    (From: http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/the-new-bland-and-dull-abc/2007/04/03/1175366237709.html?page=fullpage )

    Finally:
    Balance without judgement: your ABC

    Yesterday the ABC’s Drum site published a piece by Alan Moran attacking mainstream climate science. It was the first of what is promised to be a week of pieces “commissioned from noted writers on the sceptic side of the climate science debate”, apparently prompted by that site’s publication last week of a five-part article by Clive Hamilton on the campaign being waged against mainstream science by climate denialists.

    Moran is obviously entitled to his views regardless of whether they are easily shown to be false. The question is more why they were given a run on The Drum without some basic fact-checking or balance. Moran’s article did not “balance” those of Clive Hamilton, who wrote on a specific aspect of the climate change debate in which he is professionally involved.

    This is a further example of the ABC’s balance without judgement on the issue of climate science. Out of an editorial concern for balance, the ABC gives time not to experts who are in a position to offer credible scepticism about aspects of the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, but to bloggers and right-wing commentators. The rollcall of Drum sceptics this week says it all: none of Alan Moran, Tom Switzer, Bob Carter and Jo Nova are climate scientists.

    Moran’s piece is comprehensive in its listing of sceptic and denialist claims. A number of them were recycled by Tom Switzer in the second climate denialist piece today. They’re worth going through in detail to illustrate how thin the climate denialist case is when checked against the evidence.

    …the ABC asks the same group of conservatives and professional denialists, none of whom have expertise in climate science and whose work involves serving up the cream of the denialist blogosphere, despite their claims being repeatedly shown to be wrong.

    (From: http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/03/02/balance-without-judgement-your-abc/ )

    Denial Zombies are alive and well in Australia, and growing in power!

  86. A face in the clouds says:

    The so-called “NorryBots” were outed a year or so ago at the “Official George Noory Sucks Thread” at Godlike Productions. They were not around very long because posters used their presence to lampoon Noory (who is a denier) more than ever before. The thread was unexpectedly shut down and scrubbed a short time later, but probably for reasons other than the discovery of the NooryBots. Noory was screaming “Uncle!” so the mercy rule was applied.

    However, a new Noory Sucks Thread has since appeared, and if one checks the later pages they will discover what appears to be more of the NorryBots. The new thread pales in comparison to the old one, but posters do seem to be enjoying shooting the new rats in the junk yard.

  87. Anna K says:

    So who is going to take these b*st*rds to court? This is illegal, right?

  88. Dickensian American says:

    Daniel J. Andrews says:

    I disagree. I rely on industry, university and government contracts for work. A google search of my pseudonym shows I’m sometimes a bit vocal in certain areas (climate, evolution, resource management, wildlife population, monitoring). This outspokeness, if under my real name, could lose me contracts because, for example, they don’t want anyone outspoken, they are denialists themselves, they agree with me but they don’t want to risk offending prospective clients (mining, forestry) they’re annoyed because I sometimes show the emperor has no clothes (e.g. in my field, politicians say they have implemented program X, and I point out “yes, they have, but they neglected to give enough money so program X can do actual work”).

    Gotta say I strongly agree with this. Some commenters, such as myself, are embedded in workplaces and fields that may be termed as “hostile to open political dissent.” Unfortunately as some have observed, arts, media, and entertainment are mostly currently funded and structured by moneyed corporatist interests. Though some of what I do professionally has some strong, obvious political implications, there are at times good reasons to not be confirmed as radical as one may be by being connected to open discussions online. (There is a long tradition of dissent through double entrende in creative professions.) If you’ve ever been blacklisted in your field for political views, you know how devastating this can be and how it virtually silences your public professional voice for years as you reinvent and reestablish yourself.

    I am well aware of the implications of newfangled bots and old fashioned sock puppets in this information war. But I’ll only keep posting where I do as long as pseudonyms with a degree of anonymity are allowed. If this protection goes away, this is one far left poster who will return to lurker status.

    Cody says:

    I am a little offended that you are calling these people “conservatives.” This distorts the true picture of what conservatives are. We are a group of mostly God loving, traditional, hard working people who just want to live honest lives. We do not believe in utopias, but we are willing to work hard to make the present as good as it can possibly be. Amassing enormous credit debt and, in general, being rich without having produced anything, is not something we want

    Unfortunately for you, these folks self-identify as conservatives. Traditional American conservatives need to get much more vocal about distancing themselves from these evil people if you want a clearer public understanding about your canon of values.

  89. Karen S. says:

    Anyone who watches the comments sections of Andy Revkin’s DotEarth blog and other blogs over time would have to already be wondering about this, but good grief, federal contracts for fake personas? My once solid faith in our government is being chipped away, and this story reinforces fears I formerly dismissed as irrational. Geez, maybe that’s what the corporate owners want.

    Left, right, whoever you are doing this, you know it’s wrong. Unethical at best, immoral likely, and not what this country is supposed to be about. The practice should be illegal, but what an enforcement nightmare.

  90. Chris Winter says:

    Here’s a very good letter to the editor by one Dave Becker to rebut another reader’s letter in the Pembroke Mariner & Ranger (or maybe its online arm, “Wicked Local.”)

    http://www.wickedlocal.com/pembroke/news/opinions/letters/x1343505408/Letter-Global-Warming-is-not-a-myth

    He cites a previous story supporting global warming in that paper, and quotes data from NOAA and NASA.

    And guess who is right there to blast the paper for covering climate change honestly? I cannot decide if “mememine69″ is a fanatical person or a bot.

  91. Chris Winter says:

    Prokaryotes wrote: “A group of influential conservative members of the behemoth social media site Digg.com have just been caught red-handed in a widespread campaign of censorship, having multiple accounts, upvote padding, and deliberately trying to ban progressives. An undercover investigation has exposed this effort, which has been in action for more than one year.”

    And, once discovered, this group of “Digg Patriots” (as they called themselves) moved on — to Reddit, I believe.

    (BTW, Prokaryotes, there is a “www-yourtube-com” but it appears to be a spam site. Just a word of advice to those who copy and paste URLs.)

  92. Chris Winter says:

    Another factor in the relative paucity of sensible comments on some newspapers is the quality of the software. I find the software at The New York Times, for example, to be a pain to use. When I read comments, I have to go back and forth page by page. Then, if I want to comment, I have to log in, whereupon I am returned to the beginning and again must click “1”…”2″… through to the end to see my comment in final form.

    The Boston Globe, IIRC, makes it impossible to copy and paste portions of previous comments in a reply. And many newspapers that do allow copy-and-paste from previous comments offer no easy way to italicize or otherwise mark them as distinct.

    All of this discourages effective discussion.

  93. Cody2 says:

    @ #70 Mike,

    As a patriot, I believe that our cultural traditions are the best on the planet. And I think that the way to ensure a better future is both to remember the things that worked in the past as well as to change the things that did not.

    “The people of a nation may share a set of principles that shape their political life, but these principles cannot by themselves define their community and what distinguishes them from other communities. If Iraqis embrace the principles of the American creed, they may become Iraqi democrats but they will not become American democrats. Americans believe in the creed as one component of their identity, but they also define themselves by their history, traditions, culture, heroes and villains, victories and defeats, enshrined in their “mystic chords of memory.””

    – The late Samuel P. Huntington

    I believe that the American story is being continually written and that it allows for new people to be a part of it. In fact, this was one of the express wishes of the constitution. To show you how serious we are, 600,000 Americans lost their lives destroying African slavery. Conservative americans also do not support nationalism, colonialism, expansionism, or in any way, the destruction of another’s way of life. Within these borders, however, I do not believe that anyone can contribute to the American story while still having foreign interests.

    This is all beside the point, though. Greed threatens to ruin everyone, conservative, liberal, plant, and animal. Bickering is pointless, as it only serves to rally the majority of the American people, who are God-fearing conservatives, against you.

  94. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Roger and Lewis, let me deal with Vietnam and Afghanistan first. It was the strategy of the indirect approach that succeeded in Vietnam. When the Viet Cong was attacked, they simply faded away into the jungle only to re-emerge at night from a series of tunnels and well hidden tracks. They did everything possible to get as much of the population and villages on their side. They attacked only where and when our forces were low or inadequate. It was classic guerrilla warfare.

    The Taliban has employed very similar tactics in Agfghanistan (as discussed by an expert in guerrilla war who has studied this all his life, at the National Press Club a couple of years ago). While many Afghans do not like the Taliban, they harbour them because the Taliban does such things as set up village courts where justice is administered with fairness. This provides a semblance of order which is what the villagers crave so they can get on with their lives and feed their kids.

    The indirect approach is enormously complex as I learnt when I tried to learn how to play the board game. It does not preclude direct attacks but you must pick your spots. The whole idea is to build support across the field and you may sacrifice some battles in order to gain advantage in more strategic areas. I watched the SOTU on TV and then read the speech several times. I claim no special expertise in American affairs nor am I an uncritical Obama lover but what I saw and read was an attempt to build support across the field by picking the points of least resistance such as clean energy, more efficient infrastructure, education particularly in maths and science, innovation, new jobs and industries etc. He didn’t put all his eggs in the one basket but gave himself room to manoeuvre through all these various fronts. As I said, give him some time.

    I am as sure as I can be that he will come out and do as you wish but if he does it today, what will happen? That proportion who believes CC is a hoax or a communist conspiracy will dismiss his statement out of hand and you only have to see what those morons in Congress did last week to guess their reaction. He needs to rebuild a support base. What is happening in Wisconsin and the increasing resistance to mountain top removal give hope that that may be happening.

    I have seen direct information campaigns about CC from green groups fail repeatedly here. Information on its own does not change minds or behaviour. It has gone beyond that point. The enemy must be surrounded and made impotent. I don’t think the American people are going to take long to see that the current Congress is damaging their lives and their future. Do you think they want filthy air and water?

    The President has framed the debate in such a way that that is the way the current moves such as those against the EPA will eventually be seen. I know we do not have a lot of time but what happens in the USA is very important to all of us. I am sure he has made mistakes but is his current strategy a mistake? I think not. There are more ways of leading than shooting at things. I have written about his SOTU address in more detail on http://www.thelightonthehill.com simply because I know what happens if we do adopt the direct approach to this and we lose, ME

  95. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Cody2 #93, simply asserting that the ‘American Way’ is the best, is silly. The American Way not only means many things to many people, many plainly contradictory, but the American Way is not even ‘American’. It contains elements from around the planet, from Western traditions, themselves preserved at times by Islam then resuscitated by the Renaissance. It drew from American Indian institutions and from the all-round education and understanding of your Founding Fathers, the better of which I see no heirs to in today’s US polity. It evolves, as do all ideologies and ways of life, borrowing from others and changing them in return. These philosophies are not engaged in a competition-they simply exist, and evolve, and their success or failure is relative, fortuitous and often depends on mere externalities like military force, technological development and mere chance. The American Way is simply a variant of the Human Way, as all human societies share so much and differ in such minutiae of habit and custom, that to see them as antithetical and hostile by nature is plainly pernicious, and a self-fulfilling prophecy. May I suggest that you abjure ‘patriotism’, and adopt ‘humanism’ in its stead?

  96. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Matt #82, I saw that hideous cant in The Fundament, too. The author Marc Hendrickx is a fanatic denialist. If you look up The Drum’s back pages you may find a piece about a children’s denialist cartoon he produced and tried to have inflicted on kids at schools. It’s a real doozy. You’ll understand what we are dealing with in Mr Hendrickx’s case pretty quickly. He must be happy though. He’s finally got Chris Mitchell’s attention, and risen to the denialist empyrean at The Fundament.
    And JonS #85, the ABC is now congruent with News Ltd. Flunkies move back and forth between these organisations, thanks to Howard’s total politicisation of the place and Rudd’s total acquiescence in maintaining it, like all other Howardite policy. Uhlman is the plainest Liberal sympathiser and Howard sycophant you could imagine, leaving aside Fran Kelly.I think that our brief posterity will see the Howard years as the moral, intellectual and spiritual death of our society. Not that the ABC going over to the Right has stopped The Fundament’s lunatics, Greg Sheridan, of course, leading the bedlam, from still screeching ‘Leftwing, Leftwing’ like some sort of deranged mantra. Of course, for Sheridan, anything to the Left of, well, himself, is the very definition of Evil.

  97. Cameron says:

    Automated astroturf was inevitable. As far back as I can remember, most of the callers to talk radio were actors. It was a way around the Fairness Doctrine. One producer of a nationwide nighttime talk show complained that half the calls to his board were coming from a call center in Omaha. He was annoyed that he had to hire an extra screener. This was in the early 70s, AM radio.

    Captchas won’t even slow them down. The Nigerian fraud syndicate (tolerated to avoid disrupting Nigerian oil…) has turned captcha-breaking into just another sweatshop.

  98. Richard Brenne says:

    If Joe or another CP moderator questioned a suspected bot, saying something like “If you don’t respond to my question, your comment will be labeled as being from a bot,” such robots could be identified and forced to vacuum my carpets, among other things.

  99. Mike Roddy says:

    The notion of Obama favoring the indirect approach, as if he were mimicking the tactics of Ho Chi Minh, is ludicrous. The Viet Cong were not afraid to die for their cause, so their rebellion can hardly be called indirect.

    Obama won’t even fight. His strategy is to give ground to the enemy in the strange hope that they will be his friends, so that more can be accomplished in the future. The result of this tendency has been loss of respect from both sides, paralysis, and defeat.

    If you’re going to win, you have to fight. I’m glad people are starting to wake up to that truth.

  100. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Mike, its a question of where and when you fight and what you fight with.

    I think you must be the first person ever to claim the Viet Cong used the strategy of the direct approach. That was our strategy. You probably remember the ending of that little venture. The Vietnam war has been analyzed to death.

    What is your strategy for getting to 350ppm or hopefully closer to 280? ME

  101. BillyConn says:

    @Sam: Here is the video for you,
    “PBS Frontline Merchants of Cool 2001 (aggressive marketing)”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9kwUlqCMZM

    At around 2:00 it shows a marketing company that employs people to post positive on forums in order to dram up support for the products. Imagine what a professional marketing company with IT expertise could do…

  102. BillyConn says:

    More about ‘persona management software’ at
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/02/22/exclusive-militarys-persona-software-cost-millions-used-for-classified-social-media-activities/

    Talks about the procurement of such software by the military.

  103. BillyConn says:

    George Monbiot from The Guardian has a relevant new article
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/georgemonbiot/2011/feb/23/need-to-protect-internet-from-astroturfing

    A whistle-blower contacted him with details of comment-bot operation. The whistle-blower was handling about 70 personas for the activities he was tasked for.

  104. Julia Thornton says:

    Cody @ #93,
    I think you’re quite brave Cody for coming on to this blog to make statements about conservatism, and I think you should be commended for being quite reasonable and not turning it into a rant. However I also disagree with your position on “patriotism” as a first premise, taking Mulga Mumblebrain’s (@ #95) position that this is an unsupported premise, followed by faulty logic. Nevertheless, I would like to see conservatives take a truly conservative position on that related concept, conservation. And if that means using the language and faulty premises and reasoning of conservatism to persuade other conservatives that protecting “nature” in all its forms including the air we breath is a good idea, then that’s ok with me. The “frame” does not matter nearly as much as the outcome.

  105. Susan Anderson says:

    BillyCon – what makes you think denialism is not already exploiting top marketing techniques? Judging by results, they have plenty of real professionals. And of course we already know about Frank Luntz of “doubt is our product” fame.