A sock puppet company called Ntrepid has been awarded a contract initially worth $2.76 million by the United States Central Command create fake online accounts -- what has been called a "virtual army" of profiles -- to "create the impression of consensus opinion in online comment threads, or manipulate social media to the point where valuable stories are suppressed."
The U.S. Military may be engaged in illegal activity, if it uses its sock puppet operations to target American citizens, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Persona management by the US military would face legal challenges if it were turned against citizens of the US, where a number of people engaged in sock puppetry have faced prosecution.
Last year a New York lawyer who impersonated a scholar was sentenced to jail after being convicted of "criminal impersonation" and identity theft.
According to The Guardian, "Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated Facebook messages, blogposts, tweets, retweets, chatroom posts and other interventions. Details of the contract suggest this location would be MacDill air force base near Tampa, Florida, home of US Special Operations Command."
Nobody knows if Ntrepid will be awarded supplemental contracts that will jack-up the amount of money paid to Ntrepid after the fact from secret sock puppet accounts of the U.S. government.