Last week, Glenn Greenwald (of former Guardian fame) released a set of documents provided to him by Edward Snowden that reveal that the United States government is actively attempting to use the internet to “discredit and shame” members of the press and political dissidents who attempt to openly badmouth the USA.
The methods to achieve these goals usually involved tactics such as spreading falsified information through social media outlets, leaking private data to large institutions, and even ruining personal relationships by revealing secrets held between the target and whoever the may be seeing at the time.
Also targeted by the campaigns of criticism include members of the hacktivist organization Anonymous, foreign dignitaries, and even people convicted of meaningless misdemeanors which have nothing to do with their online presence in the slightest.
Perhaps most disturbingly is the saga that played out on the social news aggregation website Reddit when the news first broke. Normally when a story hits the wire, users of the website are allowed to either “upvote” or “downvote” an article, giving it a higher or lower ranking on the front page depending on the number of people who have cast their ballot on either side.
Since the leaks first started over nine months ago, many of Glenn Greenwald’s stories with the Guardian would immediately become front page news on the site, listing at the top of major subreddits (categories) such as r/worldnews, r/politics, and r/technology. What makes this news interesting in particular is that instead of splashing into the top spot like usual, moderators of the forum were found continuously downvoting, downplaying, and outright deleting any trace of the story that might have made its way into the top spot.
This then became its own contained controversy on the site, with users and moderators accusing one another of government cooperation, or at the very least falling to pressures that may have been put on them by forces or institutions unseen.
Many of those responsible for the attempted cover-up have refused to comment on their actions, and several users have been removed from their moderator positions under suspicion of possible collusion or cooperation with government officials.