It’s time to talk about harmful online “ops”
As the target of a persistent campaign to smear my reputation, undermine my work and damage my ability to make a living, I have learned a lot about what really happens on social media.
This is not an exposé of anyone. I will not name my attackers in this piece. But it’s important for people to understand what happens in the shadows online and how it works to manipulate reality to target and harm people.
This is difficult to write for several reasons. First, it brings up trauma and triggers PTSD. The last 18 months have been the most challenging of my life in many ways. I’ve experienced all of what I will describe in this piece and, to say the minimum possible, it sucked.
That, of course, is exactly what they intend, to tear the target down psychologically and to interfere with what they do in every other possible way. To lower their influence, wear them out, and defeat their ability to speak.
Writing this also opens me up to new lines of attack which I am dreading. Again, this is the point. They make it painful to speak.
My attackers still have three big problems with me, however.
I have dismantled their narrative and they know it. They have been, are, and will always be dead wrong about the origin, operations and mechanisms of the Cult that is currently putting global liberal democracy on life support. That is the point of what they do. To be wrong — aggressively.
The same ability that allows me to see a network like QAnon and accurately predict what it will do and who’s doing it, allows me to see what my attackers are doing to me. It’s just another network to expose. I hate being part of the story but I have no choice — so be it.
I am stubborn, extremely stubborn. I will not stop — or be silenced.
Ultimately, their goal is to change the narrative to the one they’ve been assigned to enforce. I was way off their script and had to be taken out. Since taking out my Twitter account wasn’t enough, they’re continuing to attack me on Twitter in my absence, and extending it to anywhere else I show up. If you think this is hyperbole, search my name and any derogatory term on Twitter. I dare you.
Also, let me say this before getting into the details. Anyone who followed me knows that I do not make statements without back up, without “receipts” — if for no other reason than the trolls would crucify me. The good news about a social media attack is that is it recordable. The internet really is forever. The receipts create themselves.
I spent about 15 months doing everything in my power to ignore the trolls publicly, despite their constant attacks behind a block and their active attempts to prevent me from doing my work. I very rarely mentioned it for nearly a year. However, I did not sit still about it. I have collected a great deal of information.
I fully expect my trolls to tear this article apart, to clip it out of context, to deny any of this happens and to make fun of me for crying about mean tweets. I can’t wait. The network will light up like a Christmas tree and the camera will be rolling.🎄📸
Who am I?
What makes me qualified to even be in this conversation? Some of my “critics” have questioned whether I’m an “expert.” Let me say this clearly: Yes.
You can go to my About page or LinkedIn if you want, but I’ve been involved in internet technology for nearly 30 years. I was one of the inventors of “alternate reality games” which QAnon mirrored and weaponized. I started “larping” nearly 20 years ago. I have a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Creative Achievement — Original Interactive Show and a bunch of other awards and patents. I’ve run five internet/technology/entertainment companies and worked at Google/Niantic. And I have a talent for absorbing large amounts of information and identifying patterns.
I’ve also done the work and put in the time. if you’ve followed me at all you know this is true. I have done this seven days a week since August 2, 2020. Thousands and thousands of hours. I have talked to thousands of people and have hundreds of sources.
I will debate any of the people who put me down and claim to be experts on any related subject. Any of them.
What is an “op” in the context of harmful online activities? Confusingly, it can mean two different things. It can be short for either “operative,” a person doing a job, or for “operation” which is a coordinated set of activities with a specific goal.
In this context, “op” is used to mean either an intentionally inauthentic actor, or an inauthentic coordinated action. In other words, a person or people who know what they are doing is harmful someone else and do it anyway.
Operative “op” examples:
“Jane was high up at Palantir, I wonder if she’s a Thiel op.”
This is speculation, inquiring whether Jane is not being authentic in her actions, that rather than doing what she personally believes, she is using her voice to shape the narrative in a way conducive to Thiel’s plans.
“Tom joined our group, made friends with everyone and then blew everything up. He was obviously an op.”
This means that because of Tom’s clearly inauthentic actions infiltrating the group and causing chaos, he wasn’t there for the reasons he led everyone to believe. He was an operative for someone else.
Operation “op” examples:
“That website platforms disinformation actors in the guise of free speech. I’m trying to find out who’s running the op.”
“There’s a group of them who won’t leave her alone. Seems to be an op to get her to quit Twitter because she’s ready to talk.”
Hopefully you get the idea. It’s just shorthand for stuff that sadly happens all the time.
The trolls will go to town on this word, claiming “ops” do not exist, while every single one of them do it and use the word themselves.
Why do they do it? MICE
Compromising material / Coercion
In counterintelligence, they use this acronym to break down the basic motivations for people to go against the interests of their own country. It serves just as well to describe why people engage in harmful behavior online. I know many people attacking me that fit each of these categories or various combinations thereof.
I’m going to define some terms and give examples based on my own experience. Some of this may seem outlandish. Trust me, I know. Nonetheless, all of this happens. A lot.
Live Action Role Play. Verb form: to “larp.” In this context, a LARP is simply a social media account that is portraying itself as something it’s not. It’s a human playing a character behind a digital mask. Not all characters are bad of course, and neither are all LARPs. I started larping online in 2004 for entertainment doing an alternate reality game for Halo 2. It was fun and people loved it.
However, when people are larping and harming people while hiding behind an anonymous account or being deceptive about their true intentions in order to solicit information or to traumatize people, that’s not entertainment, it’s fraud and malicious injury. It should be a crime.
“Q” is now the most famous LARP in history of course. As I’ve explained in detail, QAnon was a psychological operation to radicalize Americans toward fascism and theocracy. The same basic process that brainwashed tens of millions of people into seeing Donald Trump as the Second Coming and Hillary as the Antichrist, can be used at smaller scales as well.
This word is used in a lot of ways, but in my experience, it has two somewhat different meanings depending on the part of speech being used. As a verb, to “troll” someone can simply mean saying something to intentionally get a reaction from someone else or a group. This is not necessarily toxic in isolation. Verbal battles can be fun if there is engagement on both sides and it doesn’t get abusive.
As a noun however, in my experience, a “troll” is an account whose purpose is to target and harm others. For example, there are at least 20 people whose actual job appears to be to defame me personally — or at least a substantial part of their job. And hundreds more who actively follow and cooperate with it.
This may sound hard to believe but I assure you it’s true and I have proof. The ringleaders seem to be paid by the tweet because they generate thousands and thousands of lies and false insinuations while on assignment, which can go on for many months.
None of the tweets in isolation is enough to get them suspended but in combination creates serious direct damage to the target and as much collateral damage as possible as well. They target your allies — ruthlessly. All of my public friends and partners have been targeted. Every last one.
Concern trolls and sealions
While this used to be a relatively small part of trolling, in my experience at least, it is now the majority of what they do in public.
In order to circumvent Twitter’s TOS, the trolls have learned the exact set of rules they must follow to avoid suspension. While ad hominem attacks and attacks on minority status seem less frequent, they have simply replaced them with lies, mischaracterizations and insinuations which do not break TOS at the tweet level. And they create volume.
Here’s an example of someone who lives in the UK dedicated to trashing me with his “concerns” — literally dedicated. Thousands and thousands of tweets like this since February 2021 completely mischaracterizing me. He takes one small part of an enormous amount of evidence and creates a straw man which he then attacks.
The tell is what he and his allies go after constantly — Russian involvement and Mike Flynn. Both of those subjects are off limits to them. I wonder why.
Weaponizing mental health
One of the things trolls do is target people based on vulnerabilities. They try to find weaknesses, or strengths, and then target those.
For me, one theme has been that I am “unwell.” A prominent “dirtbag left” QAnon-related podcast that pulls in over a million dollars a year put a notice up on the main discord channel that I was “unwell” and implied I was suicidal. However, they did say that their audience should stop targeting me for trolling in their server. You may be surprised to learn that it only got worse.
When I confronted one of the co-hosts about this, they gaslit me that I was in fact unwell and thought it was fine to say this anyway.
Note the discussion of “BlueAnon” which is a term used to discredit researchers used by Russia-friendly commentators on the far-left like Aaron Maté and Matt Taibbi as well as fascists like Jack Posobiec and Mike Flynn himself.
This person, a prominent figure in spreading disinformation about QAnon who trolls me ruthlessly and runs ops on my friends had “Jim Stewartson is unwell” in their bio for months. Apparently this does not break Twitter’s TOS.
For the record, I am neurodiverse and I take care of my mental health which has certainly suffered from these attacks. But I am not unwell, and implying this is a despicable ableist smear.
Sock puppets are a form of account that is designed to be disposable and has a purpose the owner wants to conceal. I’ve used them to monitor accounts that I’m blocked on and used them to interact with accounts to get information, for example this fifteen minute video of me in August 2020 getting indoctrinated into QAnon in 15 minutes. I did conceal my purpose with my profile and actions. But I was not there to harm people. However, I certainly could have if i had bad intentions.
Coordination with sock puppets
Coordinated harmful activity is against the Twitter TOS, but there is no way to report it. When you report tweets for abuse and harassment, they ask you for specific tweets only. If you add to the report providing evidence of harmful coordination, they respond that the specific tweets were not in violation. It’s maddening. The rules are there and it’s happening under their noses all over their platform but there is no enforcement. Zero.
I am aware of several people who are attacking me and my friends who operate dozens of sock puppet accounts through Tweetdeck that play both sides. This is so they argue with themselves in order to get as much of the poisonous material out as possible.
This is one of the most difficult parts to believe, but it’s true. Bear with me.
There are people out there who are experts in psychological manipulation through trauma, gaslighting and manufactured drama. They target vulnerable people and brainwash them into believing their attacker is their friend at the same the “friend” is attacking through separate accounts or having collaborators do it. This is also known as “gangstalking.”
They set situations up to intentionally cause trauma. Trauma causes fear and it causes dissociation, both of which are necessary components of undue influence.
I have a great deal of evidence of this process. Of people intentionally coordinating psychological attacks to break a target down in order to insert whatever ideas they want and get the victim to take actions they would not otherwise take.
The process is “360” and involves contacting the associates of the target. Phone calls, emails, lawsuits, physical intimidation and financial levers are all in the toolkit.
Horrifyingly, sometimes the actions they want people to take are self-harm. There are a number of suicides associated with QAnon and associated groups that are the direct result of people being mindfucked. There are also a large number of people who have been mindfucked into mental institutions or chronic insanity.
Victims of this process, however, are mostly weaponized against the enemies of the person who mindfucked them. They are led to believe the people they are attacking are evil and must be destroyed. So they become effectively cult members who do whatever their cult leader says, including causing harm to others. In other words, like mini QAnon.
Misusing Private Information
Imagine this situation.
There’s someone you thought was a friend. Someone you trusted but seems to have pulled away for reasons you don’t understand. They contact you in DMs and purposefully engage you in a conversation about others who you believe are harmful and attacking you.
Almost immediately the DMs are spread all over Twitter by the same bad actors you were talking about in your private conversation with your “friend.”
The DMs are then used as “evidence” to support the idea that you are “attacking” the bad actors who are actually the ones attacking you. It’s manufactured evidence to use as projection.
This is an op. It’s happened to me many times. I’ve talked to thousands of people over the last 18 months. I say lots of stuff in private I wouldn’t say publicly — just like everyone else. Using someone’s deceptively appropriated private conversations is a disgusting tactic and should be against TOS.
Two-sided Ops / Infiltration
The hardest thing to achieve online while being attacked is trust.
My policy has always been to trust people who tell the truth and take actions that help preserve democracy. This works — to a point.
The hole in this strategy are “two-sided ops” or people who say things and take actions which appear to be benevolent while they are actually there for deceptive and harmful reasons. They will report back to others what you are doing, generate material to use against you, and cause chaos and divide you from your friends.
The people who do this are sociopaths by definition, because what they are doing is intentionally and deceptively harming people.
Finding out you were deceived by someone you trusted also creates paranoia. It makes you not trust anyone — which again, is the point. The people who do this want you isolated.
Influence Journalists and Blue Checks
Going into this project, innocent child that I was, I gave the press the benefit of the doubt that they could absorb facts and report them accurately.
Sadly, the press is a minefield of people who are either too afraid, too gaslit, or too compromised to accurately report on what’s going on. I have made contact with a large number of prominent journalists along the way. For the most part, they are well meaning and they want to tell the truth.
But journalists are just people like anyone else. The are not immune to gaslighting, lies and smear campaigns. There are a few good journalists — they know who they are — that were fully engaged in helping me get stories out. Then they suddenly ghosted me and started amplifying the people attacking me — the same people who are spreading disinformation about QAnon and related subjects. They were influenced by bad actors who lied to them.
That is just the symptom, however. The disease is the embedded ops in the press that spread disinformation, attack people and solicit others to write hit pieces while working hard to maintain a veneer of credibility.
For example, there are at least 6 blue checks who larp as journalists or academics who have decided that destroying my ability to talk to the press is a good use of their time. They do it both publicly and privately. They poison my name to people I trusted and lie about me and my record at every opportunity. Again, if you doubt me, most of the receipts are all public.
Platforming bad actors
Last year a semi-prominent blue check journalist wrote a bullshit story about a trivial drama that gave a lot of oxygen to several people, including someone who is infamous for manufacturing situations to give himself clout.
The two other people he platformed in his story have spent every single day since trying to destroy me publicly and privately. There was no reason to print the story. It was completely made up and the journalist knew it. Yet the journalist published it anyway, giving clout to the precise people that are trying to harm me.
The same blue check journalist who wrote the story above also specializes in downplaying anything related to QAnon, and especially, for some weird reason, Mike Flynn.
They took my story about Mike Flynn leading a Christian church in an occult prayer by fascist cult leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet and turned it into a nonsense story about how all the QAnon members were calling Flynn “Satanic” which, especially at the time, was pure bullshit. None of that was the point. And this journalist knew it.
They pushed the story mainstream. It was on MSNBC, etc. and the journalist went on TV to take credit for this lie, giving no credit to me, although he did identify me in his article as “Twitter user Jim Stewartson.”
So, instead of taking seriously the fact that Flynn was deceptively trying to insert dangerous fascist ideology into unknowing Christian audiences, the story became “QAnon turns on Flynn.” This had the effect of obscuring the point of my discovery AND generated more disinformation that Flynn is not involved in QAnon, except as a “grifter.”
Here is his good friend, another blue check that has been aggressively attacking me for a year and a half. This guy runs around the internet trying to discredit everything I do. He does it in public and he does it in private. He solicits hit pieces on me. He seems to like protecting Flynn and hates any mention of Russian interference. He is desperate for you to believe that Ron Watkins did everything and that Mike Flynn is just a “grifter.” Ask yourself why.
If he’s so sure he’s right, why not just prove it? Do some work. Show your research. Since what you’re saying is true, it should speak for itself. But it’s not authentic, it’s a clear and motivated agenda.
Who are these people anyway?
When you really look at these journalists’ backgrounds and see who they have associated with, the LARP becomes apparent. Some of the people who larp as “Q experts” are friends with many of the people who operated and amplified QAnon. Yes, some of them started covering QAnon very early which they tout obsessively, but that in itself should tell you something. Why amplify a small internet LARP when no one outside of 8chan was paying attention?
Most importantly, look at the coverage. Look at their stories. Is what they are writing actually contributing information that’s useful, or does it misdirect people from the point and from the people that are perpetrating disinformation and harmful behavior?
Finally, look at their track record and analysis. Did they warn about the danger in a way that was helpful? Was their analysis insightful or did it just muddy the water?
Also, who do they interact with? What sort of people do they talk to? Do they amplify trolls and harmful actors?
Let’s say you are a rich, malevolent person and someone on Twitter is exposing stuff you don’t like. Let’s say you have a deep network of dangerous, harmful bad actors online that you have been cultivating since GamerGate. Let’s say you have people you pay whose job is to generate conflict and chaos. I’ll call them “handlers.”
You give your handler a couple hundred grand to pay people to take the target down and pay the network through any number of crypto schemes. This sum is a rounding error for a billionaire.
Your handler recruits people and gives them sums of money to be dedicated to attacking the target. The people doing it don’t need to know the reason for the attack or where the money’s coming from. It’s a job. And for narcissists and sociopaths it’s a lot of fun.
They spend their days in discord and Twitter DMs trying to figure out different ways to take a target down. They run ops. They recruit trolls. And they attack your friends and partners. They deploy two-sided ops to get information to use maliciously.
There is quite a list of these people, who have been paid to attack me personally. The record is clear. I’ve identified a few already publicly and I will identify more.
Being paid to intentionally harm another person is immoral and anyone who does it is a monster. The people doing it to me right now, be on notice. I will not allow this to continue and I will take action to be compensated for the harm you have caused me.
You may have noticed that I have used the word “harm” a lot in this piece. That’s intentional, because our system is not set up to prevent it and it needs to change.
Coordinated harmful online campaigns cause real damage to the target. I’m not going to go into the details of all the damage they cause, but here are a few categories
Emotional / psychological
Financial / business
Reputation / destroying groups of friends
In my case, I have documented all of this. Everyone who contributed to it is liable.
I know the people doing this to me. I am taking all necessary actions to put a stop to it. Once we preserve democracy, I’m going to make it a mission to make our online lives safer. It’s currently a weaponized influence war with rules that are easily gamed to benefit people with bad intentions.
I’m going to keep comments off this article for now. I want people to be able to share it without the inevitable garbage that will come at me.
If you found this helpful, I urge you to share it. This stuff is real. It happens in the open and I want people to understand it. Please feel free to email me at stewartson at protonmail dot com. 💙🇺🇸🏴☠️