Recently, an interesting document was revealed by Cryptome, a website, similar to Wikileaks, which tries to publish documents states and private companies have kept secret. This document, named The Gentleperson's Guide To Forum Spies (spooks, feds, etc.) is about how to spy, misdirect, dilute and create disinformation on Internet forums. After reading it, you might probably notice that you already encountered such attempts on your forum, and that, maybe, your forum has several members being counterproductive and making everything to muffle your voice and the voice of your community.
In addition to giving some tips about how to disinform, track and spot people doing it, the original author, from the form COINTELPRO US agency, explains 6 techniques about manipulating a community and its forum:
- Forum Sliding: Consists of posting many new threads to pollute and make a sensitive and critical thread disappearing in dozen of useless content.
- Consensus Cracking: Using several accounts, you would post as a user an information which looks good, but that has some weaknesses. Step by step, with another account, you will argue and prove that the original post is not as good as it looks, and the involved community will start trusting you and following your positions.
- Topic Dilution: A bit similar to Forum Sliding, the goal here is to dillute the topic of a sensitive thread by being totally off-topic or start arguing on different/minor things. At the end, the trolls might start, and the original topic is going to be forgotten.
- Information Collection: By giving some fake information about yourself, some members might start replying you about their personal information about the same topic. You can be even smarter by indirectly getting these information, for instance, talking about a car brand just to know how many persons use a car.
- Anger Trolling: If you try to know who are the posters the most inclined to violence, you can start pushing themselves to act like this by intentionally posting a bad (racist, intolerant) topic. By the way, you can convince shy persons to act by posting with fake accounts multiple anger messages, just to show them everybody is involved in replying in a bad way to the original poster.
- Gaining Full Control: After playing a long time with the previous techniques, you can start being considered as a relevant and gain the confidence of the forum administrator, reaching the forum moderator status. With these credentials, you can unobtrusively start moderating or removing sensitive topics, and, in a long perspective, try to shut down the forum by making it non interesting any longer.
Of course, the goal here is not to encourage people using these techniques, but have you already noticed such behavior on your forums? Do you still fight against this?