Even something as seemingly innocuous as an online poll could be compromised by government initiatives. New documents show that the U.K. intelligence agency GCHQ has a set of tools for manipulating what people see online and even spreading misinformation.
According to documents leaked by Edward Snowden and examined by Glenn Greenwald at the Intercept, GCHQ can skew online poll results, artificially inflate a website's pageview statistics, put two unsuspecting strangers on a phone call with each other, and even censor “extremist” video content. The software suite comes out of GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), which the Intercept has already reported on for behavior like monitoring YouTube and Facebook users, and tracking people the agency perceives to be activists, like those who visit WikiLeaks.
Initiatives described in the JTRIG documents include:
GATEWAY: “Ability to artificially increase traffic to a website.”
SLIPSTREAM: “Ability to inflate page views on websites.”
CHANGELING: “Ability to spoof any email address and send email under that identity.”
UNDERPASS: “Change outcome of online polls.”
ANGRY PIRATE: “A tool that will permanently disable a target’s account on their computer.”
The Intercept is hosting the complete document here. This week the U.K. Parliament is spending three days debating emergency legislation that would expand government surveillance to “help keep us safe from those who would harm UK citizens,” according to Prime Minister David Cameron's Twitter. Apparently even your office picnic Survey Monkey could be of interest to international governments.
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