Fake Cuban Twitter plan straight out spooks’ form book

By Toby Manhire In The Internaut

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A crop of new digital journalism ventures have launched in recent months, such as the de-NYT-ed FiveThirtyEight and Vox.com.

At least as important is the First Look Media stable, backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and boasting an impressive stable of journalists, including Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Jeremy Scahill, Matt Taibbi and Andy Carvin.

The company’s first “digital magazine”, The Intercept, picks up where Greenwald left off at the Guardian in revealing and analysing the materials leaked to Greenwald by whistleblower Edward Snowden – work which this week was rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize for the public interest.

On the site, he reflects on reports by the Associated Press that the US Agency for International Development had planned to secretly create a “Twitter-like Cuban communications network” to collect private data “in the hope that it might be used for political purposes”.

Documents from the National Security Agency show, Greenwald writes, that “this sort of operation is frequently discussed at western intelligence agencies, which have plotted ways to covertly use social media for ‘propaganda’, ‘deception’, ‘mass messaging’, and ‘pushing stories’.”

A whole range of clandestine online projects, he argues, “threaten the integrity of the internet itself, as state-disseminated propaganda masquerades as free online speech and organising. There is thus little or no ability for an internet user to know when they are being covertly propagandised by their government, which is precisely what makes it so appealing to intelligence agencies, so powerful, and so dangerous”.

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