Twitter files: Big Tech giant broke its own rules to help US gov’t spread war propaganda
12/22/2022 // News Editors // Views

The newest installment of the so-called “Twitter Files” reveals that Twitter supported the Pentagon in spreading its war propaganda. 

(Article by Andreas Wailzer republished from

American investigative journalist Lee Fang was given excess to Twitter’s internal communication, and he released “Twitter Files Part 8” on December 20. 

“Twitter has claimed for years that they make concerted efforts to detect & thwart gov-backed platform manipulation.” Fang wrote. “Here is Twitter testifying to Congress about its pledge to rapidly identify and shut down all state-backed covert information operations & deceptive propaganda.”

“But behind the scenes, Twitter gave approval & special protection to the U.S. military’s online psychological influence ops,” Fang continued.

In 2017, an official from the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), a unified combatant command of the U.S. Department of Defense, “sent Twitter a list of 52 Arab language accounts” that they used “to amplify certain messages.

The CENTCOM official asked for verification (blue checkmark) and “whitelisting” for some of their accounts. According to Fang, Twitter established a special “whitelist” tag on the day of CENTCOM’s request. Whitelisting means that these accounts “are exempt from spam/abuse flags, more visible/likely to trend on hashtags.” 

The CENTCOM accounts tweeted about U.S. military operations and priorities in the Middle East, including the promotion of the war in Yemen, which is backed by the U.S., anti-Iran messaging, as well as claims of “accurate” drone strikes that allegedly only killed terrorists.

At first, the CENTCOM accounts profiles showed their affiliation to the U.S. Department of Defense. However, those tags were later removed in a shift of strategy, in order to make the accounts appear like genuine people or organizations from the Middle East. One of the accounts “used an apparent deep fake profile pic & claimed to be a source of Iraqi opinion,” according to Fang.

Fang reported that internal Twitter emails revealed that there was another list of “157 undisclosed Pentagon accounts, again mostly focused on Middle East military issues.” Despite Twitter officials knowing about the psychological operations of these U.S. military accounts that go against Twitter’s own rules, some of them were “not suspended until May 2022 or later,” according to Fang.

Moreover, a Stanford Internet Observatory report from August 2022 uncovered “a U.S. military covert propaganda network on Facebook, Telegram, Twitter & other apps using fake news portals and deep fake images and memes against U.S. foreign adversaries.” 

This “U.S. propaganda network relentlessly pushed narratives against Russia, China,” Iran, and “other foreign countries,” according to Fang.

The Stanford report also identified one of the Twitter accounts that CENTCOM asked to be whitelisted in 2017. Fang wrote that the “account used an AI-created deep fake image.”

While Twitter did eventually suspend many of the U.S. government’s propaganda accounts, the company “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,” Fang stated, adding that they “waited years to suspend [the accounts].” 

Fang also stressed that Twitter’s conduct with the U.S. military’s propaganda was very different from how they dealt with state-backed information operations from Russia, Venezuela, or Thailand, which they always removed very quickly, according to Twitter’s own statement. 

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