Social Advocacy & Politics: World of Spycraft

Alan Rosenblatt Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy, turner4D

Posted on December 18th 2013

Social Advocacy & Politics: World of Spycraft

NSA spying through video games

A fellowship of NSA spies has been sent forth into the World of Warcraft on a quest to root out nefarious plots against the United State of America. Having to infiltrate many realms to monitor the millions of people playing there, the NSA team donned disguises and adopted alter-egos. Each team deployed into the various realms no doubt had a tactical mix of healers, tanks and damage dealers. You need a good mix of skills on your team to survive this rough world and to get the intelligence you need, especially when you come across a terrorist cell also in similar disguises. If the NSA teams are not good enough with their disguises, terrorist cells throughout WoW are likely to attack them at a moment’s notice, especially in the PvP-RP realm (oooh, gotta watch out for that one). But they must succeed. Our nation depends on them.

Meanwhile, the dark lord of the government (is Cheney still in office?) has dispatched Nine Riders of the most terrible form. They are agents of the law operating under the guise of dark, ominous things. In reality, they are there to spy on and terrorize good, innocent dwarves, elves, gnomes and, of course, humans. As long as the Nine are among us in this world, no one’s privacy is safe. No one will truly be able to enjoy the pure rush of combat and the thrill of finding booty fit for kings.

I suspect that both the far left and the far right imagine that the NSA’s foray into the World of Warcraft is more like the Nine Riders than a fellowship on a noble quest. And Americans in the middle are more likely to see it either as the fellowship (if they see government as a force for good) or a deployment of soldiers to protect us (if they see government as a necessary evil).

What I want to know is: who are the NSA staffers assigned to this effort? Are they operatives or analysts? Perhaps they are operalysts (or anatives), as they must be operatives in a virtual world, where digital data processing is an invaluable skill.

The bottom line is that infiltrating World of Warcraft (and Second Life), as the reports indicate the NSA does, makes sense. There are millions of people using these virtual worlds. As an online organizer, I have often suggested that campaigning within these worlds makes sense if you want to reach people you likely can’t reach anywhere else online (they probably spend too much time in these worlds to have any time to spend it anywhere else).

From the NSA’s perspective, these worlds are a great place to find the disconnected, disaffected of our society. They are a great place to find people who love to conspire for world domination (even if that world is fictional). And it is a great place to find people adept at using these worlds to hide their efforts to conspire.

Does that mean I like what the NSA is doing in World of Warcraft? No. Does that mean I think they will find any terrorists? Probably not. But I say “probably not” as much for how difficult it is to find anyone in a huge world of people plotting war as for the unlikelihood that there are any terrorists there to find.

As an aside, World of Warcraft peaked at 12 million players. World of Tanks just passed 75 million. I wonder if the NSA is there, too; most likely under the command of General Patton, himself (hey… it’s roleplaying).

Then again, what a fun job these NSA Operlysts have… sitting around all day playing World of Warcraft. I just pity them for having to explain what they are doing to their superiors.

(Pictured below: Crack NSA spy team poses for group photo)

nsa spying


Alan Rosenblatt

Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy, turner4D

Alan Rosenblatt, Ph.D. is a social media and online advocacy strategist, professor & thought leader. He is Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy at turner 4D (formerly Turner Strategies), the co-founder and host of the Internet Advocacy Roundtable; and an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins, American, (Georgetown and Gonzaga Universities), where he teaches courses on internet politics. He was Associate Director for Online Advocacy at the Center for American Progress/CAP Action Fund from 2007-2013, where he created and directed the Center’s social media program, as well as Ombudsmen and co-founder at Take Action News. Alan taught the world’s first internet politics course ever at George Mason University in 1995. He founded the Internet Advocacy Roundtable in 2005; blogs at,, and occasionally/previously at,,; serves on’s board of directors and Social Media Today’s Advisory Board; In 2008, he was a fellow at George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet; and is a co-founder of  Alan has a Ph.D. in Political Science from American University, an M.A. in Political Science from Boston College and a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy from Tufts University. Find him on Twitter and across social media at @DrDigiPol.

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