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'Twitter Files' reveal platform aided Pentagon propaganda efforts abroad

"Twitter actively assisted CENTCOM's network going back to 2017 and as late as 2020 knew these accounts were covert/designed to deceive to manipulate the discourse, a violation of Twitter's policies & promises."

December 20, 2022 3:49pm

Updated: December 20, 2022 4:15pm

The most recent release of Twitter's internal documents, dubbed the "Twitter Files," details the platform's cooperation with the Pentagon to promote propaganda materials in line with the military's strategic geopolitical interests.

Released by The Intercept's Lee Fang, the latest release detailed Pentagon requests that the platform either verify or "whitelist" a plethora of accounts it used to "amplify certain messages." Whitelisting an account exempts it from spam and abuse flags while also making it more likely to trend.

Various accounts from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) often tweeted about American military interests in the Middle East. Some espoused support for U.S.-backed Saudi operations in Yemen while others frequently posted anti-Iran material.

Fang contended that Twitter was fully aware of the Pentagon's network of fake accounts and that it was slow to ban many of them. He further highlighted Twitter's prior submissions to Congress that it worked to combat government manipulation of the platform and to shut down government-run-but-undisclosed accounts.

"The U.S. propaganda network relentlessly pushed narratives against Russia, China, and other foreign countries. They accused Iran of 'threatening Iraq's water security and flooding the country with crystal meth,' and of harvesting the organs of Afghan refugees," Fang went on.

While many of the accounts were eventually suspended following an August report from the Stanford Internet Observatory that exposed much of the American propaganda network, Fang went on to assert that reporting that presented the platform as an unbiased entity enforcing its policies were errant and that Twitter had in fact secretly aided Washington in violating its own terms of service.

"The reality is much more murky. Twitter actively assisted CENTCOM's network going back to 2017 and as late as 2020 knew these accounts were covert/designed to deceive to manipulate the discourse, a violation of Twitter's policies & promises," he said. "They waited years to suspend."

Fang concluded by highlighting the contrast between Twitter's public and aggressive efforts to curtail platform manipulation by Russia, Venezuela, and other foreign entities with its relatively lax and even supportive approach to the same activities conducted by the Pentagon.

"The conduct with the U.S. military's covert network stands in stark contrast with how Twitter has boasted about rapidly identifying and taking down covert accounts tied to state-backed influence operations, including Thailand, Russia, Venezuela, and others since 2016," he concluded.

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