Twitter Files Part 8: Platform ‘directly assisted’ US military’s influence operations

Investigative journalist Lee Fang released the eighth edition of the “Twitter Files” on Tuesday, putting a spotlight on how the social media juggernaut “quietly aided the Pentagon’s covert online PsyOp campaign.”

“Despite promises to shut down covert state-run propaganda networks, Twitter docs show that the social media giant directly assisted the US military’s influence operations,” Fang wrote to kick off the lengthy thread.

Elon Musk had been vocal about being transparent when it comes to Twitter’s past and present actions curating content on the platform, including censored content. The Twitter owner has enlisted journalists to slowly release evidence of these actions in a series dubbed the “Twitter Files” that continue to expose once-secret communications.

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Billionaire industrialist Elon Musk took over Twitter in late October and immediately fired several top executives.
(Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto, CARINA JOHANSEN/NTB/AFP via Getty Images (Photo illustration))

Fang said he was “given access to Twitter for a few days” but did not sign or agree to anything specific. He added that Twitter “had no input” into his reporting, but searches were carried out by a Twitter attorney so what he saw could be limited.

The viral thread explained that Twitter “has claimed for years that they make concerted efforts to detect” and “thwart gov-backed platform manipulation” but findings indicate that is not the case.

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

Fang’s examples included an email from US Central Command listing Arabic-language accounts used to “amplify certain messages.” Twitter allegedly helped give the accounts additional visibility and made them exempt from spam and abuse flags.

“CENTCOM then shifted strategies & deleted disclosures of ties to the Twitter accounts,” Fang wrote. “One Twitter official who spoke to me said he feels deceived by the covert shift. 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 .”

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On Monday, the seventh edition of “Twitter Files” delved into how the FBI and intelligence community “discredited factual information about Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings.”

Independent writer Michael Shellenberger revealed what he called an “influence campaign” by the FBI that eventually “worked” when Twitter censored Hunter Biden’s scandalous laptop.

Journalist Matt Taibbi went viral with the first installment in early December with his “Twitter Files” focusing on Twitter’s internal discussions leading to it censoring the Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election, with some officials struggling to explain how it violated its “hacked materials” policies.

It was later revealed that the first batch of “Twitter Files” were vetted without Musk’s knowledge by Jim Baker, who previously served as the FBI’s general counsel and was involved in the Russia probe, but was working for Twitter ahead of the 2020 election, got involved. Musk fired Baker shortly thereafter.

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Fang continued to put a spotlight on Baker in the eighth installment of “Twitter Files.”

Fang also shared emails from other Twitter lawyers and executives.

“In several other 2020 emails, high-level Twitter executives/lawyers discussed the covert network and even recirculated the 2017 list from CENTCOM and shared another list of 157 undisclosed Pentagon accounts, again mostly focused on Middle East military issues,” Fang wrote.

“Many of these secretive US military propaganda accounts, despite detection by Twitter as late as 2020 (but potentially earlier) continued tweeting through this year, some not suspended until May 2022 or later, according to records I reviewed,” Fang wrote.

“In subsequent reporting, Twitter was cast as an unbiased hero for removing ‘a network of fake user accounts promoting pro-Western policy positions.’ Media covering the story described Twitter as evenly applying its policies & proactive in suspending the DoD network,” Fang wrote. “The reality is much more murky. 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. They waited years to suspend. “

Fang wrote that “Twitter’s comms team was closely in touch with reporters, working to minimize Twitter’s role” throughout the process.

“The conduct with the US military’s covert network stands in stark contrast with how Twitter has boasted about rapidly identifying and taking down covert accounts tied to state-backed influence operations, including Thailand, Russia, Venezuela, and others since 2016,” Fang wrote.

The second installment of Twitter Files previously published by Weiss revealed Twitter’s “blacklisting” of prominent conservatives, including Fox News host Dan Bongino, Turning Point USA’s Charlie Kirk, as well as Stanford University’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a longstanding opponent of COVID groupthink during the pandemic who expressed opposition to lockdowns.

Internal communications also reveal Twitter staffers admitting that the popular account Libs of TikTok never violated its “hateful conduct” policy despite being punished several times for allegedly doing so.

Those revelations appear to contradict what former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told Congress in 2018, saying under oath that Twitter did not censor or shadowban conservatives.

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The third, fourth and fifth installments of the “Twitter Files” focused on the permanent suspension of former President Trump around the Capitol riot events in January 2021. Taibbi reported how Twitter circulated election-related tweets from various users leading up to the 2020 election that were “flagged” by the FBI as being problematic.

Part six of the “Twitter Files” put a spotlight on Twitter’s close ties with the FBI. Taibbi alleged the law enforcement agency was acting like a “subsidiary” of the tech giant revealing communications that showed the FBI, as many as 80 agents, systemically flagged Twitter users for tweets that included “possible violative content” pertaining to the election.

In response to the “Twitter Files,” a spokesperson for the FBI told Fox News Digital, “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.”

This is a developing story, more to come…

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.

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