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I know it’s hard for many people to think of platforms like Twitter or Facebook as “digital fronts” in information warfare, but for many people, that’s exactly what they are. When you join a site like Twitter or Facebook, or anywhere else for that matter that may have a political component to it, you walk onto a battlefield.

There are generals, colonels, lieutenants, and grunts in all of these places. While bullets aren’t being fired, what the battle is over is ideas and control of the narrative. Those higher up the chain of command are often times put in charge of people, who they direct in a certain direction, and with a specific message. Other times, this process is essentially automated, with a small handful of people controlling a number of “sock puppet” accounts to amplify their message, whatever it may be.

This writer’s experience in this type of information warfare comes mostly from my time with the website The Trenches, and our efforts to expose the operation known as #StopRush. That group was mainly put together by Matt Edelstein, known on Twitter as @Shoq. Regardless of the way much of it played out and the characters involved in it, we were able to get an admission from one of the people that a good portion of #StopRush was made up of people paid to run fake accounts and make it seem as though there was a VAST array of people opposing any advertisers of Rush Limbaugh’s in the wake of his comments about Sandra Fluke in late 2011/early 2012.

In this piece, there is an audio recording of the man who goes by Randy Hahn (@farrightofleft) on Twitter, talking with Edelstein about the hundreds of fake accounts he was running as part of the #StopRush operation.

There’s also this screenshot of Hahn commenting on a tweet that the number may have been even greater than he admitted to Edelstein in that original post.

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So, in short, while there was *some* authenticity to #StopRush, there was also a completely artificial component to the so-called groundswell of anti-Limbaugh sentiment. But, for a social media manager for some company, if you were to see your company’s profile get flooded with hundreds of tweets that all look to be legitimate profiles, you would be under the impression that there was apparently thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people all aligned against Limbaugh, and your company, if you insisted on keeping your sponsorship of Limbaugh’s radio program.

While it’s debatable whether #StopRush truly had any kind of effect, it did lead to a number of high-profile companies pulling their ads from Limbaugh’s shows. Although there were plenty of other companies willing to step in and fill the void.

Now, it appears there’s probably another “astroturfed” Twitter narrative-controlling movement underway right now, dealing with the hot topic of the moment : guns. As far as I can tell, most of the sentiment regarding guns coming from the right is authentic. But it appears, once again, that the left is resorting to these underhanded tactics in their attempts to control the narrative.

Although, given the nature of the tweets of these new profiles that are proliferating on the side of gun control, it appears they may be more aimed at trying to incite pro-gun activists on Twitter.

First:

And then this, from a different account of that person, apparently (the account was suspended so a screenshot is all I have at this time)

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The exact same message, towards well-known and prominent members of the conservative Twittersphere. Looking at the “egg” account though, you’ll see what I mean about the harassing nature of the tweets I referenced earlier:

You can’t see it here in the way the tweets are presented,  but the Barsin profile dutifully re-tweeted those tweets.

So again, as an activist of any type, you should be aware that these manipulative methods are being employed. Again, while I said I’m unaware of any right-leaning organizations or groups engaging in these methodologies on Twitter, at least, it does appear that there are some who engage in these practices.

In this post titled “I Was a Paid Internet Shill“, one man describes his encounter with this kind of operation, and how he was hired on to promote pro-Israel sentiments across a number of websites.

And it appears as though the strategy for these operations are the same, no matter the political leaning. As you can see above with the @AmericanIndian9 and @DickBarsin profiles, they were targeting posters who have significant numbers of followers on Twitter. Greg W. Howard is one of the most well-known and vocal conservative political activists on Twitter, and Chris Loesch is well-known because of his wife, Dana, and their connection and partnerships with the late Andrew Breitbart.

From the “Internet Shill” post :

 “Focus on the popular posters,” my trainer told me. “These are the influential ones. Each of these is worth 50 to 100 of the lesser known names.”

I highly recommend reading that post, because it is very informative as to the nature of this new Internet underworld aimed at controlling the narrative and shaping opinion on the Internet.

You are a soldier in an all-out information war. While most of us use social media etc to find like-minded people, just remember there are small groups of people out there who take this idea very seriously, and go to great lengths to control information and control the narrative.

As Shakespeare wrote a long time ago:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more….