The recent public apology by the co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, is yet another example of how domestic threat-actors threaten the very core of our representative democracy; the integrity of our elections.
LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman’s mea culpa included his acknowledgement of spending millions of dollars on a social media psychological warfare campaign during the Alabama Senatorial special election of Roy Moore. According to reports in the New York Times, a company called American Engagement Technologies created fake, Russian social media profiles in an attempt to make it look like Russians were supporting the Republican candidate. You can read Mr. Hoffman’s response to the New York Times article here.
Personally, I don’t believe Reid’s story of plausible deniability in that he was simply investing in AET and did not know what they did.
Having literally pioneered social media psychological warfare, known in military nomenclature as Interactive Internet Activities, or IIA, at least two critical things immediately come to my mind when I saw this.
The first was the hypocrisy on the left in not calling Reid Hoffman out and condemning what is exactly the same moral and ethically contemptuous tactics they have been losing their minds over for two years now with President Trumps’ “Russian collusion” hoax. I say hoax regarding President Trump because there has never been anything publicly released by federal authorities that even remotely shows President Trump acted or participated in any way with the Russians in a social media IIA campaign.
My second thought is how then candidate Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was not only partners with my former employer, Dynology, when I was building Obama’s ShadowNet from 2007-2010. It is that Manafort is also now tied to WikiStrat and Psy-Group, which Mueller’s team has been investigating, somehow within the scope of his fake, “Russia collusion” authority. Both WikiStrat and Psy-Group have direct connections to Obama’s ShadowNet as well.
Manafort was looking at Psy-Group to provide clandestine, social media psychological warfare. They were not seeking to alter the outcome of an election, like the LinkedIn co-founder was seeking to do. Instead, according to reports, Psy-Group was strategizing how to influence Republican delegates during the Republican National Convention. Psy-Group boasts the ability to build detailed psychological profiles on each of the delegates and use clandestine means by which to reach these unsuspecting delegates that would otherwise avoid traditional forms of influence operations, such as gifts or appointments to senior positions.
It was actually, in my opinion, a counter-intelligence response by the Trump campaign, not only to a Democrat funded IIA social media warfare attack against the Trump campaign, but it was also to counter never-Trump Republican threat-actors using IIA as well. I would say it is even likely some IIA companies, like Psy-Group and WikiStrat, would conceivably be playing both sides just for profit. That would be my best guess based on nearly a decade in pioneering IIA capabilities for these exact same capabilities. In essence, combating what Reid saw as a counter-intelligence threat to Trump, was his excuse for funding AET.
If Americans lose faith in the integrity of our elections, it would threaten the very core of our representative democracy. As I have said for years now, the greatest threat to our election integrity is not from “hacking” actual voting machines, but rather, is from domestic threat-actors taking psychological warfare capabilities they developed on the battlefield and making them commercially available on the domestic market for political campaigns and lobbyists.
Using subject matter experts in psychological warfare, these for-profit members of the military industrial complex have weaponized virtually all social networks – worldwide, as well as the “fake news” media our president has repeatedly been warning about for years; possibly decades.
We need to continue our diligence in monitoring hostile, foreign threat-actors from using our news media and social networks in IIA influence operations, but this shouldn’t be our sole focus, in fact, Russia shouldn’t even be in the top 10. I’m not aware of any existing laws prohibiting the use of tactical Interactive Internet Activities by American’s, in an American election, or by a company seeking to save millions of dollars in lobbying costs. This needs to be the debate we are focused on, not Russian collusion.