TECH

Could This Mysterious 'Number Station' YouTube Account Be A Message Board For Spies?

28/04/2014 10:23 BST | Updated 28/04/2014 10:59 BST
YouTube

An account on YouTube - which has posted 77,000 apparently meaningless videos of rectangles and noises - is the subject of some interesting conspiracy theories today.

The idea goes that the account is being used as a message board... for spies.

Under this interpretation, the account is the modern equivalent of a numbers station, designed to broadcast codes over radio waves. Numbers stations are mysterious unlisted radio stations, which have been discovered broadcasting apparently meaningless strings of numbers, words or music into the ether.

In reality - the conspiracy says - those radio stations are actually codes, being sent to agents working in the field by foreign intelligence services. It's a tactic typically associated with the Cold War, but still has echoes in the modern world.

And unfortunately for sceptics, it turns out there is actually quite a lot of evidence that number stations exist - and are possibly still used in a pinch to get a message out without leaving too much of a trace.

Now apparently the number stations have gone digital... Maybe.

Boing Boing points to a "mysterious" YouTube account ("Webdriver torso") which has posted more than 77,000 videos, each 11 seconds in length, containing nothing but "pitch" sounds and a blue and red rectangle.

No one appears to have any idea what the videos are for, or who the user is.

So, obviously, one theory is that the videos are used by spies to communicate with each other over the internet. Another, less interesting, theory says it's used by a tool that automates uploading videos.

BoingBoing user Enkidu says:

"This is begging for an analysis of the data represented in these videos. For anyone fascinated by numbers stations but frustrated that they missed the heyday of the Cold War, this might just be your chance! I'm a developer, but this falls well outside my areas of expertise...but I'd be happy to try to cooperate with anyone interested."

So look, let's not get excited. This is almost certainly something really dull. But - maybe, just maybe - it's a window in a strange, underground world of double agents in suits running about with silenced pistols in the dark. Looking at their phones.