Photo: ilijiahao的照片 via flickr
When Tom Vanden Brook and his editor Ray Locker researched a story about the astronomical sums being spent by military propaganda campaigns, one of their first stops was the Pentagon.Published in February, their story outlines a massive propaganda effort costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars a year that produced dubious returns in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The investigation prompted a federal inquiry into one of the “information operations” contractors that had $4 million in unpaid federal taxes and liens against them.
Maybe the team expected that, but what Vanden Brook and Locker did not expect was to be personally attacked online by a sophisticated team of Internet assailants.
Gregory Korte at USA Today reports that following their story the pair noticed websites, Wikipedia entries, and fake Twitter accounts appearing in their names publishing false information and attempting to disparage the unblemished record of them both (via The Military Times).
From the Military Times:
The activity is the work of what online reputation expert Andy Beal calls a “determined detractor.” “It’s like a machine gun approach. They’re trying to generate as much online content as they can,” he said. “The person who’s behind this, we can give them a lot of credit here and assume they’re very sophisticated about reputation attacks.”
“This is the work of somebody who knows what they’re doing. They have some experience of covering their tracks. This is probably not the first time they’ve done something like this,” said Beal, CEO of Trackur, an online reputation tracking service.
The attackers took great pains to cover their tracks, employing proxy servers and various measure to keep their identity hidden, but both journalists remain undeterred.
If they thought it would deter me from writing about this, they’re wrong,” Vanden Brook said.
And Locker agrees, “This is a clear attempt at intimidation that has failed.”
The pair don’t come out and make the obvious connection aloud — that they’re being smeared by a propaganda machine, after writing about a propaganda machine run by the U.S. government — but they do point out that if the efforts against them were paid for by federal fund it could violate federal law.
Korte mentions the infraction would fall under a law “prohibiting the production of propaganda for domestic consumption”.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. James Gregory, responded to Korte’s inquiry by saying: “We’re not aware of any participation in such activities, nor would it be acceptable.”
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