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How British Intelligence is Manipulating the Internet

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How British Intelligence is Manipulating the Internet
Approximately two years after Edward Snowden announced the existence and use of classified surveillance techniques and programs employed by the NSA, a report by the Intercept was published exposing controversial methods used by a strand of the British intelligence agency dedicated to influencing human behavior with psychological science. The 42-page document shows how a top secret facility of the GCHQ, the UK Government Communications Headquarters, has been wrapped up in domestic operations when not preoccupied with counterterrorism operations abroad (1).

The report was compiled in 2011 and is titled ‘Behavioural Science Support for JTRIG’s Effects and Online HUMINT [Human Intelligence] Operations.’ It tracks activities carried out by the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), a secret unit of the GCHQ.

According to the comprehensive report, the JTRIG uses methods based on psychological and scientific analysis to manipulate public opinion.

As RT writes in its report about the GCHQ’s secret unit dedicated to domestic internet manipulation (2), Andrew Fishman and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist implicated in the (3) Edward Snowden revelations, both of whom were responsible for releasing the report, suggested that the manipulations were aimed at “traditionally the province of law enforcement rather than intelligence agencies.”

The report continues that the unit works alongside various other official UK agencies, including the Metropolitan Police, Border Agency, Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Security Service (M15) and the National Public Order and Intelligence Unit (NPOIU).

Top Secret Spreadsheets

The Intercept paper also shows GCHQ spreadsheets that reveal the top secret intelligence unit is providing intelligence to various departments and organizations in the UK, including the Bank of England, police agencies, the Department for Children, Schools and Families, government financial divisions, and law enforcement agencies, in order to improve “civil and family justice.”

As The Guardian notes, the JTRIG specialises in attempting to “discredit, disrupt, delay, deny, degrade, and deter” opponents (4). Though what the Guardian reports as being particularly controversial is those who the JTRIG deem as opponents – not merely terrorists and hostile states, which could potentially be a threat to national security, but activist groups and domestic criminals as well.

So what exactly does the UK’s intelligence network involve?

Essentially it seems to involve electronic communications, implementing measures such as computer hacking and flooding phones with spam. Though, as the Guardian notes, the unit goes deeper than electronic communications, and attempts to socially influence people through the likes of mass persuasion, infiltration, deception and, on occasion, “sexual honeypot stings.”

In its leaked ’10 Principles of Influence’ presentation, the JTRIG includes persuasion research compiled by bestselling author and psychologist Robert Cialdini. Such principles include research on how con-artists manage to con their victims, including making the scam enticing but adequately illegal that the target feels compelled to keep quiet about it.

secret intelligence service building

Discrediting the Enemy

So what examples of the JTRIG’s use of “dirty tricks” in order to “discredit” the enemy are there? The unit’s two principle categories of work fall into cyber-attacks and propaganda efforts.

In 2011, the JTRIG carried out a denial-of-service attack on the Anonymous activist group. Its latter category, propaganda efforts, aptly named ‘Online Covert Action’, involved using social media platforms in order to carry out “mass messaging” and the “pushing of stories.”

According to a 2014 report on NBC News, Snowden documents reveal UK intelligence used “sex and dirty tricks” against hackers, suspected criminals, terror groups and armed dealers, and online “false flag” operations (5).

The NBC News report also talks about the group’s “honey trap” antics, which the spies describe in a 2012 PowerPoint presentation. By luring targets to a specific location either on the Internet or a physical location, to be met by “a friendly face”, in order to “discredit the target”, is, according to the presentation, “very successful when it works.” Though the report does not give any details of specific “honey trap” examples.

While the Internet is undoubtedly an incredible tool in the Information Age, it can be, as the British intelligence agency proves, a potent tool in the art of manipulation and propaganda.

References & Image Credits:
(1) The Intercept
(2) RT
(3) TSW: Exploring Government Social Media Propaganda Campaign
(4) The Guardian
(5) NBC News
(6) Image of GCHQ
(7) Image of Secret Intelligence Service Building

Originally published on

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Ryan is the founder of Top Secret Writers. He is an IT analyst, blogger, journalist, and a researcher for the truth behind strange stories.
Lori is TSW's editor. Freelance writer and editor for over 17 years, she loves to read and loves fringe science and conspiracy theory.

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Mark Dorr grew up the son of a treasure hunter. His experiences led to working internationally in some surprising situations!
Mark R. Whittington, from Houston, Texas, frequently writes on space, science, political commentary and political culture.

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