Maintaining Social Licence for Government Use of False Social Media Personas

Authors: Cleaver, O. & Nicklin, G.
Published in National Security Journal, 12 June 2020


1 Thompson and Clark is a private security and risk management organisation

2 Doug Martin and Simon Mount QC, “Inquiry into the Use of External Security Consultants by Government Agencies”, 2018. Available at

4 “Immigration NZ, MBIE use fake social media profiles,” 27 September 2017. Radio New Zealand. Available at

5 “MBIE Defends Training Staff to Create Fake Identities Online,” 1 September 2019. Available at

6 “Immigration NZ, MBIE use fake social media profiles,” 27 September 2017.

7 A government Intelligence Community is responsible for gathering intelligence for national security and foreign policy purposes. See, for example, the New Zealand Intelligence Community:

8 Joe l Gehman, Leanne M. Lefsrud and Stewart Fast, “Social license to operate: legitimacy by another name?”, New Frontiers, Canadian Public Administration, 60 (2) (2017), pp.293–317.

9 The research considered only reactive searches of social media data, based on an assumption of unlawful activity prompting requirements for searching. It does not examine proactive SOCMINT techniques.

10 Marco Lombardi, Todd Rosenblum & Alessandro Burato, “From SOCMINT to digital HUMINT: Re-frame the use of social media within the Intelligence Cycle”, Sicurezza, Terrorismo e Società, 2 (2015), pp. 101-107.

11 Awais Rashid, Alistair Baron, Paul Rayson, Corinne May-Chahal, Phil Greenwood, and James Walkerdine. “Who Am I? Analyzing Digital Personas in Cybercrime Investigations”, Computer, 46, no. 4 (April 2013), pp.54–61. DOI:10.1109/MC.2013.68

12 “Social Media Intelligence”. Privacy International, 2017. Available at

13 Sir David Omand, Jamie Bartlett, and Carl Miller, “Introducing Social Media Intelligence (SOCMINT)”, Intelligence and National Security 27, no. 6 (December 1, 2012). pp. 801-23. DOI:10.1080/02684527.2012.716965

14 Omand et al., pp.801–23.

15 Omand et al., pp. 801-23.

16 Lillian Edwards & Lachlan Urquhart, “Privacy in public spaces: What expectations of privacy do we have in social media intelligence?”, International Journal of Law & Information Technology, 24(3) (2016), pp.279–310. DOI:10.1093/ijlit/eaw007

17 Adrian Liviu Ivan, Claudia Anamaria Iov, Raluca Codruta Lutai, & Marius Nicolae Grad, “Social Media Intelligence: Opportunities And Limitations”, CES Working Papers, 7(2A) (2015), pp. 505–510.