$ocial Media

If U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is successful, expect Social Media to be swarming with amateur Sherlocks looking for bad guys. The senator is introducing legislation that would set up a $25,000 reward for information derived through social media that helps thwart a terror attack. That amount of money will entice a number of people to search social media for indicators.

According to the senator, current law does not specifically cover tips generated through social media. His proposed bill would require the State Department to pay rewards of at least $25,000 for information from social media that lead to an arrest or conviction in a terror case.

Are You Smarter than a Sockpuppet?

Sockpuppetry – using a false identity in Internet communications – is frowned upon by many. In certain research circumstances it may be the better thing to do. It is not definitely not something that should be done on the spur of the moment. These are some of the points from The Research School proprietary handout on using sockpuppets. Turn the questions around when considering whether the person at the other end may be using a sockpuppet.


Has my computer been properly named? Why: If the party at the other end is able to get inside your own computer and can determine that the owner’s name is Bob, not Amy, or that it is a business computer when you are supposedly on-line from home, things can get messy. Your computer’s name should reflect your sockpuppet story.


Am I using a different identity for each site? Why: If you use the same sockpuppet name for all communications with all sites, if you make a mistake and your cover is blown on one site or with one entity, you have to assume it is compromised at every location where you use that same sockpuppet. It is highly likely that anyone who determines you are a fraud has the abilities and the desire to find out where else you have been and alert others about you.


Do I have a list for each sockpuppet that lists all “facts” I have given out about my identity?  Why: It is easy to forgetfully  contradict something your sockpuppet said previously. A week, five weeks, or a month later you will probably not remember some “fact.” A list of “facts” your sockpuppet provided earlier allows you to keep things straight.


Is my time zone appropriate to the hours when I am communicating? Why: A pattern of communications from a time zone where most people are normally sleeping raises red flags.


Is my sockpuppet’s age consistent with someone the type of person who would be talking about the subjects I am discussing? Why: The fewer things that seem strange, the better off you are.


Can I speak knowledgeably about the location my sockpuppet claims to be at? Why: A few leading questions about the area can show a lack of essential knowledge. A claim that a sockpuppet lives in an office building’s address could put a hole in that sock, darn it.


Could anyone find the picture my sockpuppet uses by doing an Internet picture search? Why: Two people with the identical picture suggests someone is less than honest. One question leads to another.


These are some of the questions we suggest, in our proprietary materials, that people answer before using a sockpuppet or use when trying to determine if the person at the other end is really a sockpuppet.

Articles of the Faithful

The IRE Journal, a publication of Investigative Reporters and Editors, has a couple of items that are of interest to the research community. “Make Search Engines Work for You” deals primarily with backgrounding people and has nine shortcuts, some of which are common search engine tricks, but others are less common. “Questions for Journalists to Answer” deals with ethical source development in the journalistic world, but the questions are also the kinds of things that allow any researcher to properly vet sources. “Tips for Protecting Your Communications from Prying Eyes” deals with ways to mask the “who” you are talking with and the “what” you are talking about. Finding the “First Quarter 2016” copy of The IRE Journal may be a bit challenging because it is not widely distributed. Try asking for it, or the articles from it by name, on Interlibrary Loan.