Journalist Lee Fang released the latest installment of the “Twitter Files” on Tuesday, showing how the social media platform “quietly aided” U.S. intelligence officials’ online campaigns.
In a lengthy thread that was reposted by Twitter owner Elon Musk, Fang wrote that “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.”
“Twitter has claimed for years that they make concerted efforts to detect & thwart gov-backed platform manipulation. Here is Twitter testifying to Congress about its pledge to rapidly identify and shut down all state-backed covert information operations & deceptive propaganda,” the thread continued.
However, according to screenshots of messages from U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) to Twitter, the social media platform gave approval and protection to U.S. military psychological influence operations targeting several Middle Eastern countries. That went on for about two years or more, and some accounts remain active, he reported.
“The same day CENTCOM sent the list, Twitter officials used a tool to grant a special ‘whitelist’ tag that essentially provides verification status to the accounts [without] the blue check, meaning they are exempt from spam/abuse flags, more visible/likely to trend on hashtags,” the thread continued.
Those accounts, Fang wrote, primarily posted about U.S. operations in the Middle East, including promoting messages targeting Iran and the Saudi war in Yemen.
“One Twitter official who spoke to me said he feels deceived by the covert shift,” he said. “Still, many emails from throughout 2020 show that high-level Twitter executives were well aware of DoD’s vast network of fake accounts & covert propaganda and did not suspend the accounts.”
In one Twitter message released by Fang, it shows that Twitter’s public relations team was working to “minimize Twitter’s role” and that at one point, “Twitter officials congratulated each other” after a Washington Post “story didn’t mention any Twitter employees [and] focused largely on the Pentagon.”
Twitter spokesman Nick Pickles in 2020 delivered testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, telling lawmakers that the firm was taking aggressive actions to shut down “coordinated platform manipulation efforts” by government agencies. He did not say whether that involved the U.S. government.
“Combatting attempts to interfere in conversations on Twitter remains a top priority for the company, and we continue to invest heavily in our detection, disruption, and transparency efforts related to state-backed information operations. Our goal is to remove bad-faith actors and to advance public understanding of these critical topics,” said Pickles.
On Monday, independent journalist Michael Shellenberger posted screenshots of internal Twitter messages that showed there was a longstanding influence campaign by the FBI around the time the New York Post released its report on Hunter Biden’s laptop. Messages show that the FBI paid Twitter $3.4 million between October 2019 and February 2021 for “[law enforcement]-related projects” including “LE training, tooling, etc.”
The FBI, according to Shellenberger, would also target media articles on alleged foreign influence operations that Twitter would then investigate and debunk. Those probes, however, “repeatedly” revealed “very little Russian activity,” he said.
Reporter Matt Taibbi posted the first Musk-endorsed installment of the Twitter files in early December, showing how Twitter officials internally struggled to deal with the NY Post’s story and discussion on whether or not it violated its “hacked materials” rules.
After Taibbi’s drop, Musk later confirmed that he “exited” Twitter counsel James Baker, a former top FBI official, after it was learned that Baker was secretly vetting the Twitter Files without Musk’s knowledge.
The second installment, published by Bari Weiss, showed that Twitter blacklisted certain conservative commentators and a prominent professor who criticized COVID-19 lockdown policies. She published internal communications showing that those accounts were either blacklisted from appearing in Twitter’s search function or blacklisted from appearing in the app’s trending tab.
The subsequent installments dealt with the permanent suspension of former President Donald Trump’s account following the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol breach. Internal communications showed that a growing number of Twitter staffers were calling for the former president to be banned in the wake of the incident.
In response to the recent revelations, the FBI told Taibbi that “the FBI regularly engages with private sector entities to provide information specific to identified foreign malign influence actors’ subversive, undeclared, covert, or criminal activities. Private sector entities independently make decisions about what, if any, action they take on their platforms and for their customers after the FBI has notified them.”
The Epoch Times has contacted CENTCOM and the FBI for comment.