On Tuesday, Investigative Journalist Lee Fang released Part 8 of what has been dubbed by Elon Musk as “The Twitter Files”. This latest batch exposed how Twitter “quietly aided the Pentagon’s covert online PsyOp campaign.”
“Despite promises to shut down covert state-run propaganda networks, Twitter docs show that the social media giant directly assisted the U.S. military’s influence operations”, Fang wrote to kick off the thread.
In the thread Fang exposed how Twitter has claimed that they make efforts to detect and thwart government backed platform manipulation. However, that apparently doesn’t apply when it’s our own government doing it. Twitter gave approval and special protection to our military’s online psychological influence ops. Fang claims that despite Twitter knowing that the Pentagon was using fake propaganda accounts, Twitter did nothing for years many times and some of those accounts still remain active.
Twitter officials went as far as “whitelisting” accounts to make it appear that the account was verified and had blue checkmark status, when it did not. This status made those accounts exempt from spam/abuse flags and made the account more visible and likely to trend on hashtags.
The accounts regularly tweeted about U.S. military priorities and successes in the Middle East.
But things then began to shift. The Pentagon deleted anything tying them to the accounts. They even used one account where they claimed to be a source of Iraqi opinion.
In July 2020, Jim Baker, who previously served as general counsel for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and later served as deputy general counsel at Twitter, claimed in an email that the Pentagon used “poor tradecraft” in setting up its network, and that they were seeking strategies for not exposing the accounts that are “linked to each other or to DoD or the USG.”
According to another Twitter lawyer, the Pentagon wanted to “retroactively” classify accounts “to obfuscate their activity in this space, and that this may represent an overclassification to avoid embarrassment.”
A Stanford Internet Observatory report from August 2022 showed that the military continued to use these propaganda accounts, spreading fake news images and stories against countries such as Russia, China and Iran. The propaganda accounts accused Iran of “threatening Iraq’s water security and flooding the country with crystal meth,” and of harvesting the organs of Afghan refugees.
One of the accounts that Stanford listed was one of the accounts that the Pentagon requested to be whitelisted in a 2017 email. That account used a deep fake image of a middle eastern man.
When Twitter finally got around to suspending some of the accounts, they were praised by the media for removing “a network of fake user accounts promoting pro-Western policy positions.” When the Washington Post published their story on the scandal, I guess they forgot to mention that Twitter executives knew about the propaganda accounts for years and did absolutely nothing.
This latest batch of files goes way beyond exposing the corruption at Twitter and exposes the severe corruption in our own government. The Pentagon appears that they are actively trying to stir up trouble and get us into war.
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