Internet users beware, GCHQ is trolling you

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
GCHQ has a big catalogue of exploitative techniques against web users

Britain’s primary signals intelligence organization, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), is actively recruiting for what it calls “Covert Online Operators”.

GCHQ recruiters are vague about the role, describing potential applicants as people who are “passionate” about the online world and are dedicated to using it to achieve “real world” results.

The successful applicant is expected to confront what is billed as Britain’s “adversaries” in an online setting with a view to delivering “end-to-end” results. The job description mentions “scoping” as well as working with “behavioural scientists” to achieve “operational objectives”.

Despite going to great lengths to present the job as high-end and sophisticated, nonetheless there are give-aways which reveal the real nature of the work.

Foremost, successful applicants only require A-levels or a university degree in any subject and then only at 2:2 level. The relatively low-level entry threshold is in stark contrast to the stringent entry requirements for mainstream national security-related jobs which typically require high level academic achievements.

The job description has led British political analysts to speculate on whether GCHQ is looking to employ trolls or social media disruptors whose job it is to identify and harass critics and opponents of British government policy online.

One such analyst is former British diplomat and ex-ambassador to Uzbekistan turned whistleblower, Craig Murray, who has long complained of online harassment at the hands of alleged British government trolls.

According to Murray the British government employs “a very large number” of people to shape the online political narrative in a manner consistent with British government positions and interests.

GCHQ’s large-scale recruitment of online trolls runs the risk of undermining the UK’s position in three important respects. Foremost, it undermines the myth of GCHQ as a cutting edge signals intelligence and cyber warfare organisation. By recruiting trolls, GCHQ is effectively admitting to online harassment and other low-level activities.

By implicitly admitting to deploying an army of trolls, the British government undermines its claims of strong commitment to media freedom and integrity on the world stage.

As critics of the British government have pointed out, if the establishment uses industrial-level trolling to silence dissidents and critics at home, it leaves little to the imagination as what it is capable of doing overseas to shape the debate in favour of Britain’s ruling elites.

To reinforce the message of cyber victimization, the British government set up the National Cyber Security Centre in 2016 ostensibly to combat cyber-based threats.

Despite the fact the UK likes to paint itself as a victim of cyber aggression, by most credible accounts Britain is more engaged in cyber offence than defence. Back in September it was reported that the Ministry of Defence and GCHQ are setting up a £250 million joint cyber warfare centre to take the fight to Britain’s adversaries.

Britain employs thousands of skilled personnel in cyber offensive roles and the government readily admits to a £1.9 billion national cyber security strategy.                 

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