In the NYT Magazine, Adrian Chen reports on the hoaxes that often target American communities from a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia. Meet the trolls who work at The Agency.
The Columbian Chemicals hoax was not some simple prank by a bored sadist. It was a highly coordinated disinformation campaign, involving dozens of fake accounts that posted hundreds of tweets for hours, targeting a list of figures precisely chosen to generate maximum attention.
Adrian Chen has an interview with a renegade IT guy named Martin who does social media, hacking, and other tech stuff for “High Net-worth Individuals” and criminals. One of things he does is set up drug rings with prepaid cell phones and a rotating collection of SIM cards a la the Barksdale/Bell drug crew in The Wire.
With Martin’s system, each crewmember gets a cell phone that operates using a prepaid SIM card; they also get a two-week plastic pill organizer filled with 14 SIM cards where the pills should be. Each SIM card, loaded with $50 worth of airtime, is attached to a different phone number and stores all contacts, text messages and call histories associated with that number, like a removable hard drive. This makes a new SIM card effectively a new phone. Every morning, each crewmember swaps out his phone’s card for the card in next day’s compartment in the pill organizers. After all 14 cards are used, they start over at the first one.
Of course, it would be hugely annoying for a crewmember to have to remember the others’ constantly changing numbers. But he doesn’t have to, thanks to the pill organizers. Martin preprograms each day’s SIM card with the phone numbers the other members have that day. As long they all swap out their cards every day, the contacts in the phones stay in sync. (They never call anyone but each other on the phones.) Crewmembers will remind each other to “take their medicine,” Martin said.
That’s clever. The “take their medicine” detail reads like it’s straight out of the movies.
Did you notice that no one ever died in the GI Joe animated series? Slate’s Adrian Chen presents the video evidence.
The first war between G.I. Joe and Cobra (1985-86), as documented in the G.I. Joe animated series, was the most violent conflict in history never to result in a single casualty. Through a combination of terrible aim, superhuman jumping ability, and impossibly reliable parachutes, every combatant escaped even the most dire of situations without so much as the angle of his beret askew.