The Internet is the principle arena for online communication. Within the online community, individuals can choose who they are. If a member chooses an online identity that is something other than who they are in real life, then the identity created is a sockpuppet. The purpose of this research was to examine the utilization and management of sockpuppets within online communities. What are the ethical and legal boundaries in the use of sockpuppets within civilian online communities? What is the role of sockpuppets in the intelligence community? The intent behind sockpuppet use determines the ethical and legal boundaries within civilian online communities. If the intent is for entertainment and communication, online communities exhibit various levels of tolerance for ethical versus unethical choices of sockpuppets. However, legal boundaries are crossed if the intent is to do harm. The United States is not consistent with legislation involving sockpuppets. The intelligence community uses sockpuppets to assist in maintaining national security. A sockpuppet allows an analyst to infiltrate targeted online communities, and once inside to gather information about the group. Sockpuppets are accepted within the communities and gain a perspective similar to an offline undercover agent. It takes great effort and skill to create long lasting and believable identities that effectively collect actionable intelligence. Conclusions generated based on a review of the current research include; federal legislation and management defining and clarifying criminal use of a sockpuppet, the creation of a best practices manual for the intelligence community to standardize training and utilization of sockpuppets, as well as continued study of the evolution of the sockpuppet.
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