Snowden leaks: Governments use Internet to infiltrate, discredit and disrupt activists and opponents

Government intelligence agencies have been manipulating the online discourse of opponents and targeting 'hacktivists' with DDoS attacks, according to the latest leaked documents from Edward Snowden.

The full documents detailing the tactics, entitled "The art of deception: Training for online covert operations", were released by former Guardian journalist and Snowden confident Glenn Greenwald earlier this week.

Related: The year the NSA hacked the world - a 2013 PRISM timeline

Drawn up by the UK agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the documents were subsequently presented to the US National Security Agency (NSA) and similar intelligence agencies in Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

They include plans of how to destroy the reputation of its targets by infiltrating their online profiles and websites and controlling the content and discourse in a way that discredits them.

One of the published slides gives details of an operational playbook called "Disruption", listing methods of compromising the integrity of its targets.

Methods of discrediting a target include instructions to "set up a "honey-trap", "change their photos on social networking sites", "write a blog purporting to be one of their victims", and "email/ text their colleagues, neighbours, friends, etc."

A GCHQ unit called the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG) is also reportedly using Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks against online activists like Anonymous, as well as targeting people "suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes".

The documents also contain methods to discredit entire companies or organisations through the leaking of confidential information to the press, the posting of negative information in forums and stopping deals in order to "ruin business relationships".