USA Today Journalists Find Themselves Subjects of Propaganda Campaign

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A USA Today reporter and editor investigating Pentagon propaganda contractors have themselves been subjected to a propaganda campaign of sorts, waged on the Internet through a series of bogus websites, the newspaper reports. Fake Twitter and Facebook accounts also were created in their names, along with a Wikipedia entry and dozens of message board postings and blog comments.

The activity began when USA Today started reporting on the military’s “information operations” program, which spent hundreds of millions of dollars on marketing campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns that have been criticized even within the Pentagon as ineffective and poorly monitored. For example, Internet domain registries show the website TomVandenBrook.com was created Jan. 7, days after Pentagon reporter Tom Vanden Brook first contacted Pentagon contractors involved in the program. Two weeks after his editor Ray Locker’s byline appeared on a story, someone created a similar site, RayLocker.com. The Pentagon has made inquiries, and the websites were taken down. Vanden Brook called the harassment “creepy and cowardly.”

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