Twitter has reportedly collaborated with the Pentagon for at least five years to wage a secret “PsyOps campaign” across West Asia, in a scheme to sway public opinion in favor of Washington’s military interests in the region.
According to an investigation of Twitter’s archives, emails, and internal tools by The Intercept, the social media giant created a special “whitelist,” exempting accounts run by US Central Command (CENTCOM) from spam and abuse flags, granting them greater visibility on the platform.
3. But behind the scenes, Twitter gave approval & special protection to the U.S. 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.
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) December 20, 2022
According to the findings of investigative journalist Lee Fang, the Pentagon used this network of bots and US government-generated news portals to shape the discourse regarding the wars in Yemen and Syria, as well as the continued presence of US occupation troops across the region.
In particular, Fang revealed that much of the Pentagon’s covert social media ops focused on promoting the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Washington has recently boosted its military presence in the war-torn country, reportedly in a bid to control its natural resources like they do in Syria.
The investigation of the internal Twitter documents also shows that the PsyOps campaign promoted narratives that specifically demonized Russia, China, and Iran.
15. The U.S. propaganda network relentlessly pushed narratives against Russia, China, and other foreign countries. They accused Iran of "threatening Iraq’s water security and flooding the country with crystal meth," and of harvesting the organs of Afghan refugees.
— Lee Fang (@lhfang) December 20, 2022
PsyOps – the military jargon for psychological operations – is defined as targeting foreign adversaries “to influence their emotions, motives, objective reasoning, and ultimately, the behavior of foreign governments, organizations, groups, and individuals.”
Twitter reportedly introduced the “whitelist” in 2017 after US military officials asked the company to improve the visibility of 52 Arab language accounts used to “amplify certain messages.”
And while Twitter executives claimed for years that the platform did not allow deceptive state-backed influence operations, the social media company was aware of the Pentagon’s propaganda campaign and tolerated the accounts’ presence until at least May 2022.
Over the same period of time, Twitter suspended or outright banned accounts that reported on Israeli war crimes in Palestine, as well as many that were linked to the governments of Iran, Russia, Cuba, and Venezuela.
The revelations come as part of the so-called “Twitter files” release, which compiles internal company documents provided for journalists following the purchase of the company by billionaire Elon Musk.
The bombshell report comes at a time when the US army and its proxy militias are accused of illegally occupying vast regions of Syria and Yemen, looting oil from both war-torn countries, just over a year after their brutal occupation of Afghanistan ended.
Just last week, the White House succeeded in stopping the senate from voting on a legislation that would have severely restricted their operations in Yemen.
On top of this, last month, the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice issued a report detailing how the Pentagon has been allowed to covertly deploy troops and wage secret wars over the past two decades in dozens of countries across the globe.
Despite the damning revelations, in the coming days, US President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law the biggest annual defense budget in history, allowing the Pentagon to continue spending trillions of dollars despite being the only branch of the US government to have never passed a financial audit.