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Twitter propaganda tool of US Central Command

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
CENTCOM Twitter (Composite: PressTV)

An investigation has shed light on the complicity of social media giant Twitter in US military propaganda in the West Asia region.

The investigation shows Twitter helped the US military amplify its propaganda campaigns in this region, allowing fake accounts to push pro US narratives.

The probe has been carried out by journalists and is based on internal documents released by Elon Musk, who took over as Twitter's CEO in October.

Musk has released the documents in an effort to boost transparency about the social media platform's operations under the previous management.

The investigation shows Twitter secretly created a special white-list exempting accounts run by US Central Command, CENTCOM, for spam and abuse flags, a move which allowed those accounts greater visibility on the platform; Twitter quietly introduced the feature in 2017.

The measure was introduced after US military officials asked the company to improve the visibility of Arab language accounts used to amplify certain messages. Those included promoting US military narratives, anti Iran messages and support for the US and Saudi backed war in Yemen.

According to the report, CENTCOM concealed its ownership of the accounts and, in some cases, it used fake pictures and bios to give the impression that they were run by civilians in the region.

The social media giant tolerated the presence of the accounts on the platform until at least may 2022.

Twitter has long pledged to shut down all state backed disinformation and propaganda efforts.

For example, in 2018 Twitter suspended accounts that were allegedly linked to Russia's propaganda efforts, but these rules and suspensions have not been applied to the American military efforts.

And the story also looks at the kind of hypocritical promises and pledges by Twitter. Twitter, since 2016 has promised to crack down on state backed influence operations, to shut down covert propaganda, and they brag all the time about shutting down Russian, or Venezuelan, or even Thai, secret Twitter accounts that are run by the military.

But really the US is doing this and Twitter, even though they promised to shut down all state backed influence operations, they have worked hand in glove with the US military, giving them special privileges for their fake Twitter accounts, these fake personalities that kind of make organic looking conversations in Yemen or Syria or Iraq.

Lee Fang, Journalist

The findings of this research appear to corroborate a major report published in August by online security researchers affiliated with the Stanford Internet Observatory.

That report claimed that thousands of accounts that they suspected to be part of a state backed information operation.

It is said many of those accounts use photorealistic human faces generated by artificial intelligence, and were connected with an online ecosystem that included fake news websites, meme accounts on Telegram and Facebook and online personalities.

They all echoed Pentagon messages and included anti Iran messages. Some of them accused Iran of threatening Iraq's water security; others promoted allegations that Iran was harvesting the organs of Afghan refugees.

In the summer of 2020, officials from Facebook reportedly identified fake accounts attributed to CENTCOM's influence operation on its platform, reports show.

In 2020, Facebook and Twitter executives were invited by the Pentagon's top attorneys to attend classified briefings in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility.

The result of that meeting was that many of the fake accounts remained active for at least another year. Some of the accounts on the CENTCOM list remain active even now

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