Twitter Files Prove Platform Protected Pentagon Propaganda Accounts

The latest explosive release of the Twitter Files showed that the social media giant worked closely with federal officials to promote the military’s accounts to carry out psychological influence operations.

CEO Elon Musk approved the posting by The Intercept’s Lee Fang on Tuesday titled “How Twitter Quietly Aided the Pentagon’s Covert Online PsyOp Campaign.”

Even though the accounts many times used false identities, Twitter reportedly approved the operation and gave it “special protection.”

A 2017 email released by Fang revealed an official with U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) requested that multiple Arab language social media accounts be given special treatment. These were used to “amplify” specific messages online.

Twitter complied. The platform assigned a “whitelist” designation to the specified accounts.

This is a hidden verification feature that not only blocks them from being flagged for wrongdoing but promotes their visibility across the platform.

Fang’s revelations showed the accounts featured anti-Iran postings, endorsed war in Yemen, and highlighted U.S. military efforts in the Middle East. Without Twitter’s enhancements, the accounts had received very little attention on the platform.

That changed, and over time the CENTCOM accounts were altered to look like regular Twitter users. Company executives, according to the released documents, even discussed ways to keep this coordination with the Pentagon a secret.

Company leaders distributed propaganda accounts in internal emails and even distributed amongst themselves a list of 157 undisclosed Pentagon Twitter accounts.

In May 2020, company executive Lisa Roman sent a pair of lists to the Department of Defense of accounts believed to be strictly U.S. propaganda. Fang reports that many of these were still posting as late as May 2022, when they were suspended.

A Stanford University study released in August showed the existence of a broad network of U.S. military propaganda accounts spread across several social media platforms.

And the Washington Post reported in September that Twitter and Facebook officials expressed their concerns to the Pentagon in 2020 over accounts believed to be linked to the military. The outlet found that the Pentagon audited its psyops when multiple suspensions were handed down.

CEO Elon Musk, who announced this week that he will step down, pledged to make Twitter more transparent. His release of the Twitter Files has revealed the stunning extent in which the platform worked on behalf of the federal government to push its narrative on the unsuspecting public.