A new installment of Elon Musk’s “Twitter Files” was released on Tuesday, and it revealed to the world for the first time the extent to which the Big Tech platform collaborated with the government to promote social media accounts that were used to psychologically influence the public through the use of cyber tactics.
The thread was posted by Lee Fang, a journalist for The Intercept, entitled “How Twitter Quietly Aided the Pentagon’s Covert Online PsyOp Campaign.” Apparently, Twitter approved and protected accounts connected to the Pentagon, even when they were fake.
1. TWITTER FILES PART 8
*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.
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) December 20, 2022
Emails were sent to Twitter in 2017 by U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which demanded that some Arab-language accounts be given priority treatment to “amplify certain messages.” The verified status included “whitelist” status, which keeps an account from getting flagged for spam or other violations of the platform’s rules. The whitelist status also gives an account more visibility when hashtag trends emerge.
Not long after CENTCOM issued its orders to Twitter, all of the accounts were given everything they requested. Those protected accounts posted anti-Iranian messages, supported the war in Yemen, and frequently discussed American military operations. Fang said that the accounts had yet to see much organic interaction with real users before getting special treatment.
After CENTCOM changed the accounts, Twitter executives started internally discussing ways to hide this coordination from the public. The company even started reporting pro-American propaganda accounts to the Department of Defense.
Apparently, the propaganda accounts were pushing narratives against Russia, China, Iran and others. It was reported that some of the accounts tweeted about U.S. military operations in Syria in Russian and Arabic without revealing any American ties.
According to The Washington Post, Twitter and Facebook officials contacted the Pentagon about fake accounts they thought were connected to the military in 2020.
As Musk promised, the revelations are part of an effort to make Twitter more transparent for its users and expose Twitter’s collusion with the government and other entities to censor conservatives. “Twitter Files” has previously revealed how the company banned former President Donald Trump, censored conservative accounts, and worked with the FBI to hide Hunter Biden’s laptop story.