HomeLatest NewsTwitter Platform Directly Assisted U.S. Military's Influence Operations

Twitter Platform Directly Assisted U.S. Military’s Influence Operations

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Lee Fang, an investigative journalist, released Tuesday’s eighth edition of “Twitter Files,” putting the spotlight on how social media giant “quietly assisted the Pentagon’s covert online PsyOp campaign.”

Fang started the thread by writing, “Despite promises of shutting down covert state propaganda networks, Twitter Docs show that the social networking giant directly assisted the U.S military’s influence operations,” Fang said to start the long thread detailing the company’s involvement in an alleged online psychological opera aimed at shaping opinions in the Middle East.

Elon Musk has been vocal about transparency when it comes Twitter’s past, present and future actions in curating content for the platform. This includes censored content. Twitter’s owner, Elon Musk, has asked journalists to slowly reveal evidence of these actions in a series called the “Twitter Files”, which continues to expose previously-secret communications.

Fang stated that he was granted access to Twitter for “a few days”, but did not sign or agree to any specific terms. Fang stated that Twitter had “no input” in his reporting. However, searches were made by a Twitter attorney to limit what he saw.

This viral thread stated that Twitter had claimed that it made concerted efforts to “thwart” gov-backed platform manipulation for years, including testimony before Congress. However, findings suggest that this is not true.

“[Behind the scenes], Twitter approved & provided special protection for the U.S. military’s online psychological influence operations. Twitter didn’t suspend any of the Pentagon propaganda accounts for more than 2 years, despite knowing that they used covert identities. Fang said that some remain active.”

Fang provided examples such as a 2017 U.S. Central Command email listing 52 accounts in Arabic-language that it used to “amplify some messages.” Twitter, allegedly gave the accounts more visibility and exempted them from spam and abuse flags.

Fang said that the accounts, which tweet about U.S. military priorities for the Middle East, were initially openly associated with the government. However, the relationship was later hidden from the public.

Fang wrote that “CENTCOM then shifted strategy & deleted disclosures about ties to Twitter accounts.” “One Twitter official spoke with me and said that he felt deceived by this covert shift. Many emails dating back to 2020 prove that top-ranking Twitter executives knew about DoD’s extensive network of fake accounts and covert propaganda, but didn’t suspend them.

On Monday, “Twitter Files,” the seventh edition, explored how intelligence and the FBI “discredited factual data about Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings.”

Michael Shellenberger, an independent writer, revealed what he called an FBI “influence campaign” that ultimately “worked” when Hunter Biden’s scandalous laptop was censored by Twitter.

Matt Taibbi, a journalist, went viral with his first installment in December. His “Twitter Files,” which focuses on Twitter’s internal conversations that led to it censoring Hunter Biden’s laptop story during 2020 presidential elections, while some officials struggled to explain how it violated “hacked material” policies.

Later, it was revealed that the first batch “Twitter Files”, which were not Musk’s, were vetted by Jim Baker. Baker was previously the FBI’s general counsel but was also involved in the Russia probe and was working for Twitter before the 2020 election. Musk fired Baker shortly afterward.

Fang continued to spotlight Baker in the eighth installment “Twitter Files.”

Fang also shared emails with other Twitter lawyers, executives, and speculations that the Pentagon might have wanted to retroactively categorize its social media activities in order to avoid embarrassment.

Fang wrote that “in several other 2020 emails high-level Twitter executives/lawyers talked about the covert network, even recirculated 2017 list from CENTCOM, and shared another list with 157 undisclosed Pentagon account accounts, again mainly focused on Middle East military problems.”

Fang wrote that “Many of these secretive U.S. Military Propaganda accounts, despite detection Twitter as late 2020 (but possibly earlier), continued tweeting throughout this year, some not suspended till May 2022 or later according to records I examined.”

Fang stated, “In August 2022 a Stanford Internet Observatory Report exposed a U.S. Military covert propaganda network on Facebook Telegram, Twitter & Other apps using fake news portals, deep fake images, memes against U.S. foreign enemies.” This included Russia, China, and Iran.

He was able confirm that Stanford had correctly identified the one in CENTCOM’s 2017 email.

Fang wrote that Twitter was portrayed as an impartial hero in subsequent reporting for removing “a network of fake users accounts promoting proWestern policy positions.” The reality is more complicated. Twitter actively supported CENTCOM’s network back in 2017 and even 2020, when they knew that these accounts were designed to manipulate discourse. This is a violation to Twitter’s policies & promises. They waited for years before they were able to suspend.

Fang stated that Twitter’s comms staff was in close contact with reporters and worked to minimize Twitter’s role throughout the process.

Fang wrote that the conduct of the U.S. military with its covert network is in sharp contrast to how Twitter boasts about quickly identifying and taking out covert accounts linked to state-backed influences operations like Russia, Venezuela and Thailand since 2016.

Fang ended the thread by linking to an article he wrote for The Intercept. It contains “more detail” on Twitter’s relationship to “government-backed covert propagandist campaigns.”

He wrote in The Intercept article that Twitter had “provided direct approval” and “internal protection to the U.S. army’s network social media accounts and online personsas, whitelisting a group of accounts at government request”, and that the Pentagon has used the network which includes U.S. government news portals and memes to influence opinion in Yemen, Syria and Iraq.

Fang claims that Twitter has been supporting the Pentagon in some way for at least five decades.

Twitter Files 2 was previously published by Weiss. It revealed Twitter’s “blacklisting” of prominent conservatives. This included Fox News’ Dan Bongino and Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk. Also, Stanford University’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya who was a long-standing opponent to COVID groupthink in the pandemic and opposed lockdowns.

Internal communications reveal that Twitter staffers also admitted to admitting that the popular Twitter account Libs of TikTok did not violate its “hateful behavior” policy, despite having been punished multiple times for allegedly doing it.

These revelations seem to contradict Jack Dorsey, the former CEO of Twitter, who stated under oath in 2018 that Twitter didn’t censor or shadowban conservatives.

The “Twitter Files”, third, fourth, and fifth installments focused on former President Trump’s permanent suspension around the January 2021 Capitol Riot events. Taibbi described how Twitter circulated election-related Tweets from different users in the lead up to 2020, which were flagged by the FBI as problematic.

Part six of “Twitter Files,” put the spotlight on Twitter’s close ties to the FBI. Taibbi claimed that the law enforcement agency was acting as a “subsidiary”. This revealed communications that showed that as many as 80 FBI agents systemically flagged Twitter users who posted “possible violative material” related to the election.

Fox News Digital was informed by a spokesperson from the FBI that they regularly communicate with private sector organizations to share information about foreign malign influence actors’ criminal, subversive, undeclared or covert activities. After being notified by the FBI, private sector entities can decide what action, if any they take for their customers and on their platforms.

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