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Social media and Google serve three strategic purposes for the U.S. government. First, they allow Washington to conduct espionage; second, they facilitate the spread of disinformation campaigns, and third, they serve as conduits for the transmission of social contagions. In deploying thought control against the users of social media and Google, the U.S. government shapes and regulates voting outcomes and civil unrest. As such, social media and Google can best be understood as unconventional weapons (UW) for use in proxy wars to achieve regime change against non-compliant Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) governments, such as, in Latin America, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Through geopolitical manipulations to overcome opposition, the U.S. government seeks to bring about the ruling elites’ vision of a corporate-controlled global economy without deploying troops. This ‘non-violent’ or ‘soft-coup’ model of unconventional warfare is organized through the efforts of U.S. quasi non-governmental organizations, such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Used in various so-called Color Revolutions in Eastern European countries, the Middle East and now Latin America, the model’s user-friendly packaging and features via social media and Google conceal their fundamentally military and security oriented application. The NED makes no secret of its advocacy of using social media to fight proxy wars.
At a minimum, NAM country governments should promote wide public awareness of that reality but also fight back by using commercially available software able to search, monitor, analyze and manage social media content. To counter U.S. corproate and government manipulation of social media, NAM governments can and should integrate this software into their communications strategies. Concurrently, either unilaterally or together they should guard against cyber invasion by passing cyber laws with strong penalties, as done by Germany with its groundbreaking Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG). NAM countries such as the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) member states should perhaps follow Germany’s example of robust laws and fines.
Cambridge Analytica and Social Contagion
Two things are important to understanding the U.S. government’s offensive against unfavorable non-aligned countries: first, the origin of Facebook and Google; and second, their collective influence over human motivation through coercion and the spread of social contagions through distorted reality. Facebook’s influence can best be understood through the two scandals over Cambridge Analytica and the Social Contagion Study.
The Cambridge Analytica scandal revealed that Facebook exposed the personal data of 87 million users to a political consulting firm, of which Trump adviser Steve Bannon was vice-president and founder. They used personal data to influence Facebook users’ votes in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favor of Trump. The main client of SCL, Cambridge Analytica’s parent company, is NATO – as well as the defense departments of NATO member states. Another company involved in the scandal is Palantir, whose chairman and founder, Peter Thiel, was a major contributor in Trump’s presidential campaign. Palantir not only has numerous contracts with the U.S. Intelligence Community and Department of Defense, but Thiel was Facebook’s leading investor, remains on its board of directors and is also on the steering committee of the elite corporate strategy group Bilderberg.
Another scandal involving Facebook is the Social Contagion Study, in which Facebook altered the news feed content of 700,000 unsuspecting users. The study controlled posts containing words with positive- or negative-charged emotions to spy on reactions. The team concluded its study by saying that emotions are spread via contagion through social networks. Facebook was publicly condemned for using Orwellian thought-policing on its users. The DoD’s Minerva Research Initiative funded research by Cornell University for a similar study entitled ‘Modeling Discourse and Social Dynamics in Authoritarian Regimes.’ Cornell University also worked on a study funded through 2017 managed by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, which aimed to develop an empirical model of the dynamics of social movement mobilization and contagions. The project aimed to determine the ‘critical mass’ (tipping point) of social contagions by studying their ‘digital traces.’
Facebook and Google: Origin and Influence
The CIA has a non-profit venture capital corporation called In-Q-Tel (IQT). Top managers of IQT are founders or board members of Facebook. IQT is linked to Facebook through Palantir’s Peter Thiel. In August of 2004, Thiel acquired a 10.2 percent stake in Facebook for US$500,000. The next two capital injections were US$12.7 million from Thiel and Accel Partners in May 2005 and then US$27.5 million from an Accel-led round of financing that included Thiel, Accel and Greylock Partners in April 2006. In 2012, Thiel sold the majority of his shares for over US$1 billion, but remains on Facebook’s board of directors.
Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were both on the payroll of the National Science Foundation (NSF) while working on its Stanford Digital Library Project (SDLP), which involved creating search algorithms to scan large quantities of data to find relationships. Funded by the U.S. federal government, the NSF’s mission statement includes intent to ‘secure the national defense.’ NSF has a longstanding relationship with the DoD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Not only was Google’s development nurtured by NSF/DARPA, but Google was also was aided by the secretive Massive Digital Data Systems (MDDS) program, administered by private contractors for the CIA and NSA. In 2004, Google bought Keyhole from IQT. Keyhole’s mapping technology software, EarthViewer, became Google Earth. Both IQT and Google funded the ‘threat intelligence’ company Recorded Futures and have seats on its board.
Besides geographic and locational tracking, Google assists the U.S. government in its efforts to write – and rewrite – history. According to Google’s transparency report, the U.S. government has named 79,901 items for removal since 2009. In that same period, Venezuela named 10 items for removal, and Nicaragua just one. According to the authors, Olivia Solon and Sam Levin, Google’s search and autocomplete algorithms prioritize sites with right-wing bias, and far-right groups trick it to boost propaganda and misinformation in search rankings. As explained by Robert Epstein, from the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology, Google has the power to rig elections through something he calls the search engine manipulation effect (SEME). Appearing on the first page of Google search results can give websites undue authority.
Besides taking proactive security measures, activists and non-aligned countries can learn from the U.S. government and control the technology posting supportive material on social media and Google. Most people using the Internet already know everything deviating from the prevailing imperialist narrative is automatically considered subversive and likely to get blocked. Social media mean our ‘friends’ in the U.S. government are watching, ready to control anything tactical we post on the Internet. One egregious example of that control is that Facebook has now removed Venezuela’s teleSUR English page twice. But while the U.S. government takes the lead in unconventional warfare technology, it also offers opportunities that can be exploited. What can’t be appropriated can be protested. Their elaborate global surveillance system was devised because the ruling elite know they are outnumbered. Knowing that gives us power.
Lauren Smith, author of historical fiction, has a BA in Politics, Economics and Society from SUNY at Old Westbury and an MPA in International Development Administration from New York University. Her novel on Nicaragua’s 1979 revolution is due out in 2019.