Written by Hudson Crozier
The scoop: At the request of the Pentagon, Twitter knowingly allowed the U.S. military to host fake accounts to spread propaganda overseas for at least five years. Despite its policies against deceptive state-run accounts, Twitter put U.S. accounts on a special “whitelist” granting immunity while it shut down accounts from other world governments.
The propaganda: The accounts were disguised as users native to different Middle Eastern countries, such as Iraq, Yemen, Syria, and Kuwait. They posted messages in defense of U.S. military actions, such as drone strikes in those regions, while accusing enemies of horrific violence in order to justify U.S. intervention. Some accounts are still active.
Kept under wraps: The Pentagon even held classified meetings with both Twitter and Facebook about its accounts. Twitter never admitted this partnership publicly and told Congress it always removed deceptive government accounts. Employees celebrated in emails when a Washington Post story failed to expose the company’s participation in military operations.
Big picture: The Twitter Files show that the platform has acted as an arm of the government not only for domestic political censorship but for war propaganda, raising many troubling questions. Did Twitter employees lie to Congress? Are other platforms involved in these operations? How else has the federal government covertly used social media companies to do its bidding?