Twitter Files: Company Allowed Government to Wage Influence Operations Abroad

(breitbart) -Twitter maintained a strict ban on foreign influence operations over the past half-decade — except in the case of the U.S. government, which was permitted to use the platform for “psychological influence operations” abroad, according to a new installment in the Twitter Files.

The Twitter Files are a series of disclosures of internal documents to journalists, a project championed by the platform’s new owner, SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. The latest batch was published by Lee Fang, a journalist at the Intercept.

According to Fang, despite public pledges to shut down all government-backed platform manipulation, Twitter made an exception for the U.S.

“Twitter gave approval & special protection to the U.S. military’s online psychological influence ops,” wrote Fang. “Despite knowledge that Pentagon propaganda accounts used covert identities, Twitter did not suspend many for around 2 years or more. Some remain active.”

“In 2017, a U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) official sent Twitter a list of 52 Arab language accounts ‘we use to amplify certain messages.’ The official asked for priority service for six accounts, verification for one & ‘whitelist’ abilities for the others.”

According to Fang, the accounts were immediately added to a special whitelist that gave them heightened visibility on the platform, and exemption from spam and abuse filters.

While the accounts’ ties to the U.S. government were initially disclosed, the accounts later tried to mask those ties. In one case, a “deepfaked” image was used to bolster one of the accounts’ fake identities.

According to Fang, the DoD-linked network of accounts “relentlessly pushed narratives against Russia, China, and other foreign countries.”

While the network was eventually exposed by external researchers and banned by the platform, this was years after Twitter was made aware of the network, as well as the attempts to hide its U.S. government ties.

“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,” wrote Fang.

“They waited years to suspend.”