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UK Intel Develops Programs to Manipulate Online Polls, Web Traffic, Media

RIA Novosti

12:49 15/07/2014

MOSCOW, July 15 (RIA Novosti) – Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), a British intelligence and security agency, has developed a number of tools to manipulate online polls, spam targets with text messages and track individuals on social networks, British newspaper The Guardian reported Tuesday, referring to information disclosed by former US National Security Agency employee and whistleblower Edward Snowden.

These tools are aimed at directing online traffic to websites, tracking targets, spreading information and manipulating online debates and statistics.

Some of the tools revealed in the document provided by Snowden are: GATEWAY, which directs traffic to particular websites, CLEAN SWEEP, which masquerades as Facebook wall posts, SCRAPHEAP CHALLENGE, which is used to spoof BlackBerry emails, UNDERPASS, which manipulates results of online polls and SPRING BISHOP, a tool used to obtain Facebook users' private photographs.

A range of tools are also said to be able to collect and store public posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, boost views of YouTube videos and locate IP addresses of entire cities at once.

The document does not state the legal restrictions on using these tools, but GCHQ said that the programs were "in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework."

In June 2013, Snowden provided newspapers The Washington Post and The Guardian with files documenting spy programs deployed by the US and UK intelligence services. Later on, Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then, in August 2013, was granted provisional asylum in Russia for a year.

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