1) Make a list of all the methods people use to criticize you. Such as demanding evidence, questioning your motives, calling you a conspiracy theorist.
2) Rename the list, "How to Control an Internet Forum, Rules of Disinformation, Techniques for Truth Suppression"
3) Mix in some legitimate methods so your agenda doesn't seem too obvious.
4) Publish list on the internet under the disguise of looking like you just want to help forum owners foresee and prevent trolling problems.
5) Watch as unknowing innocent people submit and upvote your propaganda thinking they're helping the community.
Read between the lines and you'll see it. And it was written in such a way that you can't criticize him in any way without breaking one his "Rules for Truth Suppression" or "Disinformation". Cleverly written in such a way that doesn't allow you to criticize obvious things or demand evidence. Thus making the author win no matter what. I live with a conspiracy theorist father who uses some of these himself. Not to mention I was a religious fanatic myself and am well trained in spotting the same bullshit I used to spread. Sorry man, nice try, pretty clever though.
> Make a list of all the methods people use to criticize
> you. Such as ... calling you a conspiracy theorist.
I know in politics classification is used to easily and cheaply attack someone unfairly but I can't help but think that in it's own way, it is a valid criticism.
When we say things like: "Of course you'd want to regulate everything, you're a liberal" and "Of course you'd want to deregulate everything, you're a conservative". What we're really doing is telling the person, "I think you're biased and you're not thinking outside of your own point of view". Is that not a valid criticism?
If a Christian extremist says to me "You're going to hell because you haven't accepted Jesus Christ as your savoir" and I reply with "of course you'd say that, you're a Christian extremist." Is that not a perfectly valid criticism and a very true statement?
It's not the best way to engage in a debate but not everyone has 2 and a half hours to argue with others. Sometimes you just need to remind someone that they're lost in their own lala land quickly and effectively. Nothing accomplishes that better than classification.
I think that the document itself merits some analysis when it comes to manipulation and disinformation. If you take the document at face value, the author's intention is to give information to other activists so that they can protect their communities from government manipulation. However, I think it's also possible that the list of behaviors is meant to be used by leaders to purge communities for (internal) political or personal reasons. Given a long enough posting history, you could use this list to accuse almost anyone of being a spy. I suspect that whatever the author's original intentions, the latter interpretation is going to end up being much more common. It's already easy enough to dismiss people who disagree with you as "government shills", and this will simply make it even easier to justify.
To some extent this community already employs countermeasures against some of these attacks through reply cool-downs, pun down-voting, and hell-banning. However, until now I wasn't aware that a ontology of these attacks existed. Given a common vocabulary to describe these activities, we should be able to point them out as easily as we do ad hominem.
Given the limited amount of information available in an online post, a charitable interpretation is even more warranted online than in a book.
In my childhood I had people take seriously things that I exaggerated or made up (they were silly things like made up names of plants), and as a result I gradually developed a desire to be as level and honest as possible. I frequently wonder whether I'm deluding myself into believing that I'm not overstating my case (in which case I think my positions must be very weak indeed), or doing myself a disservice by avoiding the exaggeration that most listeners expect.
 I hate making comments that sound like a retroactive reinterpretation of an earlier comment to make myself appear to have been more insightful or correct than I actually was; it reminds me of Adam Sandler's "me too" character from the SNL skit in which Jerry Seinfeld plays a distraught history teacher.
Seriously, guys, simply because you can describe something does not mean it exists. There are a LOT of ungrounded premises here. As an example, simply because somebody begins an argument with a weak premise doesn't mean that there's an organized effort at "consensus cracking". Sometimes people just make weak arguments.
There is a danger here, and it's the same exact danger as folks face that get caught up in lists of logical fallacies. The danger is that they believe that human conversations should follow a strict set of almost mathematical rules towards a logical and inescapable conclusion.
Got news for you: people are not robots. Conversations among people are messy, emotional, many times fruitless, and non-linear. Most every topic involves incomplete information, and the soul of rhetoric is emotive persuasion. The purpose of learning things like fallacies is to prevent them from being used in a careless, overt manner such as to shut down communication. It has nothing to do with eliminating them from speech or somehow perfecting the discussion. Intelligent people just make more subtle and persuasive fallacies, which makes sense when you realize decisions must be made on incomplete data. In the same manner effects such as these should be seen on all sorts of forums -- whether or not somebody is employing a tactic or not. The author is looking at this backwards.
That doesn't mean that such techniques aren't being used or wouldn't work -- although I have my doubts that you could constantly "own" a board through using them. Seems to me you'd just end up being cast as a manipulative asshole.
This article was just a little too much on the paranoid side for me. I'm not sure it belongs on HN, or that it contains any useful information at all. The problem is that these "principles" are presented more or less as simple supposition. It would be like reading a list of "wonderful" ideas for a startup. The only value some article like this would have is if it were somehow presented with empirical data of value provided. Of course, how you could actually produce value in taking a conversation off the rails is beyond me -- how do you know that by using one of these techniques you're not actually assisting somebody in understanding a topic or gaining value from the forum? From what do you measure?
It's just speculative unsubstantiated paranoid bullshit held together by an intelligent mind and cogent essay. I'm not flagging it because in some sense I guess you could call it hacker art. Very Hari Seldon.
If you want empirical evidence of groups and organizations employing these tactics it might be better to simply ask or search for it, than to paint your debaters as paranoid bullshitters.
I think you don't get it if you ask: what value is there in derailing a conversation?
Ask instead: what value was there in spamming a certain religious Usenet channel? What value is there in getting a Wikipedia article deleted or locked? What value is there for a reputation management company in pushing away negative, but legit, search results for a client? What value is there in employing trolls to counter terrorists online? What value is there in the 50 cent army? What value was there in the Wikileaks slides, where it was opted that journalists would be smeared or false information would be leaked as to discredit Wikileaks? What value is there in persona management software and upvote squads? What value is there in controlling virality?
> I had problems reading all of this because the tin foil hat I'm wearing kept slipping down over my eyes.
From the article: "5. Sidetrack opponents with name calling and ridicule. This is also known as the primary 'attack the messenger' ploy, though other methods qualify as variants of that approach. Associate opponents with unpopular titles such as 'kooks', 'right-wing', 'liberal', 'left-wing', 'terrorists', 'conspiracy buffs', 'radicals', 'militia', 'racists', 'religious fanatics', 'sexual deviates', and so forth. This makes others shrink from support out of fear of gaining the same label, and you avoid dealing with issues."
Overall, well-done on this post.
In support, I would say that it is fairly easy, depending upon your perspective, to apply most of the various "rules" in this article to about everyone's post.
The thing that I find interesting is whether these techniques might be countered. I mean, along the lines of building a better platform for discussion that is more robust towards this kind of manipulation from an hostile minority. Now that is something that's interesting for the HN crowd to discuss, isn't it?
You could argue that this stuff shouldn't be framed in the conspiracy theory idea, but then it wouldn't have gotten as much attention, which could start a discussion about the most direct way to present this information, but then if you don't give it some controversy how is it going to get the necessary exposure for people to read and listen? You might have a better manual, but if nobody reads it, it's useless.
On that note, who else wants to try writing a better manual than these guys? Is it even worth it? After all, the most important thing is to get people thinking on the right track, and stuff like this is at least a step in the right direction.
I've frankly often imagined that government agents just amuse themselves by passively watching activists infight online. (In fact, intervening would probably be discouraged because it ruins bets on who cracks next.) There's more than enough hobbyist trolls, entryists and egomaniacs to add that single drop of blood into the water, to get the carnage started. Many wisely exit the forum, while those who remain have their time and energy stolen forever.
Virtually all (or at least most) of these problems are easily preventable ailments. Sensible moderation goes a long way.
(Of course, activist groups are commonly infiltrated, and those infiltrators may prod people into doing foolish things. One joke is that social movements would collapse without infiltrators, because they're the only ones paying dues on time. Just important to take sensible steps, rather than overreact.)
I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned this, as I was sure I had read the the wired article via HN. In any case, here it is:
I saw the link on cryptome, read it, and decided to test hacker news with it. I feel like a pt. whore, but I am pleased with the results:
# my submission was not censored (far from it!)
# I learned some of the history of this meme
# People honestly discussed a variety of dimensions to the issue
# The community that thinks about these challenges expanded
Thank you all.
I acknowledge this is not proof of shinanigans on HN.
To quote from Jonathan Kozol's book Illiterate in America, "For one hundred years, starting in 1840, the census posed the question of the population's literacy level in its ten-year compilations. The government removed this question from its survey in the 1940 census. The reason, according to a U.S. Census Bureau publication, was a general conviction that 'most people [by this time] could read and write ...'
In 1970, pressured by the military, the Bureau of the Census agreed to reinstate the literacy question. Even then, instead of posing questions about actual skills, the census simply asked adults how many years of school they had attended. More than 5 percent of those the census reached replied that they had had less than a fifth grade education. For no known reason, the government assumed that four fifths of these people probably could read and, on this dangerous assumption, it was publicly announced that 99 percent of all American adults could read and write. These are the figures which the U.S. government passed on to the United Nations for the purposes of worldwide compilations and comparisons."
In short the CIA world factbook is basically propaganda in order to make the US look like the best country on earth in order to justify a foreign policy based on subjugating people of 'inferior races'. I'm not saying that every single person who cites it is either a government shill or a white supremacist, but where there's smoke there's often a fire.
However, the fact is that most of the time the parts of the CIA World Fact book quoted on HN are GDP, GDP/capita, life expectancy etc. There are often biases in these figures as well, but the CIA World Fact Book is really just acting as a convenient aggregator of these numbers.
Again, with emphasis added:
Citing economic data from the CIA World Fact Book isn't exactly propaganda
* How many boards have you been banned from
* What's the largest flamewar you've ever incited
* Can you describe an instance that you've caused a respected community member to break the board rules in frustration?
The former is something that every large consumer company does with tools like Radian6. The latter is the realm of grandiosity bordering on paranoid schizophrenia.
Revival of contelpro techniques, in startup form. There's a recent HN discussion on it, but I can't seem to find it right now.
If a forum is small enough (and has staff that don't care) for any of these techniques to be effective then the people that you're "converting" to your cause are going to be such a drop in the ocean that it's a complete waste of time. That might work on an issue with only 100 people that care about it, but global politics or anything that really matters it won't.
I have no doubt that groups are trying to do this. How often they succeed is the question.
Ubuntuforum moderators pounce on that in the main support categories. They also like to merge threads on similar technical issues. The tendency is towards long threads about an issue e.g. sound problems on a new release with certain sound cards. You have to trawl through a lot of posts, but you do get all the context. More leeway for opinions in the non-technical categories.
CentOS forum moderators use quite a different approach in the release specific categories. They seem to like a 'post=support ticket' style. They strongly discourage posting a similar problem on the end of an existing issue, they prefer a fresh post. Produces short threads each with a specific issue; clarify the issue, achieve a resolution, then out. You rely on post subject headings to spot a pattern. As CentOS changes less quickly than Ubuntu, this is probably manageable.
Any 'spying' (e.g propaganda against open-source development &c) is hard on these forums. Potential spies would need to clock the different styles.
For example, the first part was spotted 3 years ago on http://www.infoterror.com/ . More recently, it showed up on EncyclopediaDramatica https://encyclopediadramatica.se/Forum_COINTELPRO_Techniques
Even more recently, it was the subject of a great many enlightened and thought provoking discussions on reddit: http://ww.reddit.com/r/Anarchism/duplicates/v7abp/
The lineage of the other four parts can be found easily by googling representative sentence fragment. For example, https://www.google.com/search?q=fall-back+positions.+Using+a...
For extra-credit, enumerate all the techniques from the linked document that could be construed to apply to my post.
I submitted it here after stumbling onto it at cryptome. I wanted to see if it would be suppressed -- it has not been!
Sorry to annoy the oldgs
If you build a place for destructive and often psychotic people, you would need a dedicated three letter agency to prevent them from going on each others throat.
It would be a bit naive to rule it out completely, but it would be pretty silly to say for certain that it's a conspiracy.
I don't want to get overly confrontational, but your lament about reddit's decline goes into the same direction. That community has grown by a thousandfold. It's self image of a salon for educated and cultivated discourse is a sick joke. You don't need a conspiracy to explain how those pictures show up on the front page. They carry a simple, emotional message. Reddit's user base likes them, as they like rage comics, pictures of cute animals, stupid memes and rape jokes.
I don't subscribe to the front page reddits anymore, could you tell me what images you mean?