Pentagon reviews 'clandestine' ops after social media removed fake account linked to US, report

The review comes following concerns over alleged Defense Department attempts to manipulate overseas audiences.

Updated: September 19, 2022 - 12:16pm

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The Pentagon is reportedly planning to review how it carries out "clandestine information warfare" after Twitter and Facebook removed fake accounts they suspected of being run by the U.S. military.

Defense Policy Undersecretary Colin Kahl told military commanders in charge of online psychological operations to give a full account of their actions by October, The Washington Post reported Monday.

Kahl said he wants to know what operations have been conducted, who is being targeted, what tools the military is using, why the military has picked these tactics and how effective they have been, several officials told the outlet.

The command comes after the White House and several federal agencies expressed concerns about alleged Defense Department attempts to manipulate overseas audiences, according to officials familiar with the situation.

Internet researchers Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory did not blame the military after finding last month that Twitter and Facebook removed over 150 fake accounts and media sites that originated in the United States over the past several years.

Researchers found social media companies took down content in Arabic, Farsi and Urdu, as well as information connected to anti-Russia and anti-Iran narratives. They also found that fake online personas did not gain as much of a following as overt accounts. The Post reported that sources say these accounts are connected to the military.

Facebook also disabled suspicious accounts in 2020 that the Post said were created by the U.S. military to "counter disinformation spread by China suggesting the coronavirus responsible for covid-19 was created at a U.S. Army lab."