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Reporting on Manipulation of Internet Public Opinion by South Korea’s Spy Agency Before 2012 Presidential Election

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Global Investigative Journalism Conference 2013 (GIJC13) GLOBAL: Great Investigations You Should Know About Tuesday, October 15 9:00am ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- KCIJ(Korea Center for Investigative Journalism) exposed the National Intelligence Service(NIS), South Korea's spy agency illegally did political campaigning and manipulated public opinion during presidential election in 2012. KCIJ found out that the spy agency had formed secretive cyber psychological warfare unit, created at least 660 Twitter accounts. KCIJ identified those accounts posted or re-tweeted 280,000 tweets usually criticising the opposition candidates for helping the ruling party candidate.

Reporting on Manipulation of Internet Public Opinion by South Korea’s Spy Agency Before 2012 Presidential Election

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REPORTING ON
MANIPULATION OF INTERNET PUBLIC OPINION
BY SOUTH KOREA’S SPY AGENCY
BEFORE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

KCIJ-NEWSTAPA.ORG
OUTLINE

Alleged online smear campaign
by the National Intelligence Service (NIS)
to influence the 2012 presidential election
OUTLINE

Some 600 Twitter accounts
used by spy agents detected

A network of 10 groups confirmed

Major Twitter account holders
confirmed as spy agents
OUTLINE

KCIJ reporting used as strong evidence by prosecutors,
prompting indictment of former NIS chief
Online smear campaign conducted
on online forum website “Today Humor”
by an NIS official surnamed Kim uncovered
NIS explanation :
normal anti-North Korean
psychological campaign

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Reporting on Manipulation of Internet Public Opinion by South Korea’s Spy Agency Before 2012 Presidential Election

  • 1. REPORTING ON MANIPULATION OF INTERNET PUBLIC OPINION BY SOUTH KOREA’S SPY AGENCY BEFORE 2012 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION KCIJ-NEWSTAPA.ORG
  • 2. OUTLINE Alleged online smear campaign by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to influence the 2012 presidential election
  • 3. OUTLINE Some 600 Twitter accounts used by spy agents detected A network of 10 groups confirmed Major Twitter account holders confirmed as spy agents
  • 4. OUTLINE KCIJ reporting used as strong evidence by prosecutors, prompting indictment of former NIS chief
  • 5. Online smear campaign conducted on online forum website “Today Humor” by an NIS official surnamed Kim uncovered
  • 6. NIS explanation : normal anti-North Korean psychological campaign
  • 7. REASONABLE DOUBTS  It couldn‟t be done alone if it really were a normal operation  It must have been conducted on other websites as well
  • 8.  Googled some 100 postings on the website “Today Humor”  Found online postings with similar contents on Twitter, written during the same period
  • 9. Traced Twitter accounts that retweeted the online postings. A total of 65 Twitter accounts uncovered   Criticizing North Korea, promoting government policies, denouncing opposition parties, etc Twitter postings coincide with online postings on “Today Humor”
  • 10.     Online posting activities stopped simultaneously on Dec 11, 2012, the day when an NIS official was caught Confirmed core Twitter accounts that mainly produced contents without retweeting : nudlenudle, taesan4 First reporting on Mar 15, 2013 Twitter account holders which remained active before the first reporting deleted postings or withdrew
  • 11. Revelation by an opposition lawmaker about orders made by former NIS chief to meddle in politics (Mar 18, 2013) Confirmed online postings made by suspected Twitter accounts in line with the orders Confirmed 600 suspicious Twitter accounts
  • 12. Retrieved postings made by deleted Twitter accounts Collected Tweets from weblog with the use of crawler Succeeded in collecting 280,000 postings from some 450 Twitter accounts Obtained information about content producers, retweeters as well as postings and dates.
  • 13. NETWORK ANALYSIS    Analyzed relations among retweets Completed making a network map with Twitter accounts with more than 10 retweets Calculated with the help of “MODULARITY” on SNA analysis program
  • 14. CONFIRMED 10 MAJOR GROUPS Composed of at least 10 core Twitter accounts (producers), remaining supporting accounts (messengers), and Twitter bots
  • 15. KEYWORD ANALYSIS Sorting Tweets according to „Morphological Analysis‟ 15% of Twitter postings confirmed to be related to presidential election
  • 16. DISTRIBUTION MAP OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION-RELATED TWEETS
  • 17. Remaining problem : Lack of compelling evidence that confirms Twitter account holders as NIS officials Difficulty : Need to obtain information about the identities of Twitter accounts holders from Twitter headquarters in the U.S.
  • 18. EMBARKED ON THE PROCESS OF IDENTIFYING THE TWITTER ACCOUNT HOLDERS     Use of e-mail address when registering a Twitter account Possibility of using e-mail accounts from local portal sites Entered some 660 IDs into the account registration section of major portal sites Found same 160 IDs
  • 19. SEARCHED E-MAIL ADDRESS THAT HAVE THE SAME IDS THROUGH PEOPLE SEARCH WEBSITES     Confirmed real names of account holders with unique IDs Major account “nudlenudle” included Confirmed the identity of a 43-year-old man surnamed Lee His bio introduced him as a Korean Air captain, but Korean Air confirmed it as a lie
  • 20. Confirmed through multiple sources that Lee is a member of a warfare psychological team of the NIS Reported that the major Twitter account belongs to the NIS official, Lee, on May 17, 2013
  • 21. INFLUENCE AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE REPORTING The main opposition Democratic Party reported Lee to the prosecutors’ office on charges of violating NIS and election laws
  • 22. INFLUENCE AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE REPORTING Prosecutors started a probe into social network sites - Searched big data companies - Requested the U.S. for judicial cooperation
  • 23. INFLUENCE AND CONSEQUENCES OF THE REPORTING Prosecutors indicted former NIS chief Won Se-hoon for violating election laws on June 17, 2013 - Secured some 320 Tweets suspected of meddling in the presidential election - Tracing the identities related to some 400 accounts accused of having been used by NIS officials (70 percent of such accounts coincide with the Twitter accounts revealed by our reporting) - Confirmed the creation of a separate team in Feb 2012 to strengthen the SNS activities of the warfare psychological team of the NIS
  • 24. THE SIGNIFICANCE  Revealed the secret, organized online smear campaigns by the NIS to meddle in the presidential election  First reporting based on SNS data collection and analysis