On Tuesday, the eighth installment of Elon Musk’s “Twitter Files” was posted, revealing the extent of the Big Tech platform’s collusion with the federal government to promote social media accounts being used by the military to conduct psychological influence operations.
As reported by the Daily Caller, the thread was posted with Musk’s approval by Lee Fang, a journalist for The Intercept, with the title “How Twitter Quietly Aided the Pentagon’s Covert Online PsyOp Campaign.” Fang reported that Twitter gave “approval” and “special protection” to accounts that were operated by the Pentagon, even when such accounts were using false identities.
In 2017, one email was sent to Twitter by an official with U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) demanding that several Arab-language social media accounts be given priority treatment so that they could “amplify certain messages” on the platform. This special treatment included verified status and “whitelist” status, the latter of which renders an account immune from being flagged for spam or other violations of the platform’s rules, and also gives an account greater visibility when it participates in hashtag trends.
Twitter quickly followed CENTCOM’s orders, giving all of the accounts everything CENTCOM demanded. The accounts in question had posted anti-Iran messages, supported war in Yemen, and frequently discussed American military operations in the area. Prior to being given special treatment, Fang noted, the accounts had not received much organic interaction with real users.
In subsequent years, after CENTCOM changed the accounts’ information to look like normal users, Twitter executives began internally discussing ways to keep this coordination from being revealed to the public. The company even began to take the opposite stance and started sending reports to the Department of Defense regarding accounts that they believed were posting pro-American propaganda.
The revelations continue as part of Musk’s promise to make Twitter more transparent for its userbase, and to expose Twitter’s collusion with the government and other entities in order to censor conservatives and do the government’s bidding under prior leadership. Previous entries in the “Twitter Files” series have revealed the company’s efforts to censor the Hunter Biden laptop story, permanently ban President Donald Trump, and work with the FBI to censor conservative accounts.