The federal government’s connections to Twitter allowed it to spread propaganda and suppress inconvenient narratives—including election stories, military propaganda, and vaccine hesitancy, the latest revelations from Twitter say.
- Independent journalists working with Twitter CEO Elon Musk have continued to release new Twitter Files rounds over the holiday weekend.
- Investigative journalist Lee Fang released one on December 20, Matt Taibbi released one on Saturday, December 24, and The Free Press journalist David Zweig released one on Monday, December 26.
- The most recent releases show that not only the military and intelligence agencies were collaborating to spread propaganda and suppress news stories but that these same processes were used to suppress COVID policy dissidents.
- “To be frank, almost every conspiracy theory people had about Twitter turned out to be true…. So far, they’ve all turned out to be true or more true than people thought,” says Elon Musk.
- Elon Musk has promised more, saying a “follow-up piece to come next week, featuring leading doctors & researchers from Harvard, Stanford & other institutions (Many of whom were, of course, actively suppressed on Twitter).”
- Taibbi further promised a follow-up on Twitter’s relationship with congress.
Breaking Down Part VIII
Despite stated claims to avoid being affected by government propaganda efforts, the Twitter Files show that the company was directly working with the military and other governmental organizations, quietly spreading propaganda.
“Behind the scenes, Twitter gave approval & special protection to the U.S. military’s online psychological influence ops. Despite the knowledge that Pentagon propaganda accounts used covert identities, Twitter did not suspend many for around two years or more. Some remain active,” says Fang.
A 2017 email shows the U.S. Central Command using 52 Arab-language accounts to “amplify certain messages.” Twitter then placed the accounts on a whitelist, invulnerable from spam-bot prevention, giving them more reach on hashtags, spreading pro-U.S. military messages, and spreading deep-fake propaganda against China, Russia, and Iran. It then attempted to classify these social media propaganda attempts to obfuscate them retroactively. Twitter knowingly allowed many accounts to operate as late as May 2022 or later.
“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 the Department of Defense’s vast network of fake accounts & covert propaganda and did not suspend the accounts,” says Fang.
Breaking Down Part IX
Following the Twitter Files’ accusations of collaboration between Twitter and the FBI to suppress stories that could’ve affected the outcome of the 2020 election, the FBI accused “conspiracy theorists” of attempting to “discredit the agency” through “misinformation.”
Twitter’s connections did not end with the FBI. It is clear that the social media network had intricate connections with most government agencies, including the Department of Defense or “other governmental organizations” such as the CIA. Many prominent executives and officials within the company were former ex-government employees, including general council Jim Baker.
“The files show the FBI acting as doorman to a vast program of social media surveillance and censorship, encompassing agencies across the federal government—from the State Department to the Pentagon to the CIA … It was an open secret at Twitter that one of its executives was ex-CIA, which is why [FBI Agent Elvis] Chan referred to that executive’s ‘former employer,’” says Taibbi.
These connections extend far beyond Twitter. The government maintained open lines of communication with every major tech firm, including Facebook, Microsoft, Pinterest, Reddit, Verizon, Yahoo!, Twitch, LinkedIn, and Wikipedia. The FBI went as far as to assign staff to search for Twitter policy violations on the website’s behalf, a practice even Baker found “odd.”
The FBI constantly pushed Twitter to find evidence of “foreign meddling” from hostile nations, but Twitter found almost nothing. Many of the reports filed to Twitter have to do with President Joe Biden-related conspiracy theories or vaccine conspiracies.
Breaking Down Part X
Monday’s Twitter Files drop specifically deals with Twitter’s approach to COVID information and misinformation; it censored inconvenient claims and individuals, many of whom were citing the CDC. In addition to suppressing political content, the government pressured Twitter to suppress COVID content.
“Internal files at Twitter that I viewed while on assignment for The Free Press showed that both the Trump and Biden administrations directly pressed Twitter executives to moderate the platform’s pandemic content according to their wishes,” says Zweig.
Both administrations had different concerns and approached Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook. The Trump administration wanted to suppress panic buying and 5G conspiracies. The Biden administration focused on anti-vaccine accounts, believing that allowing for vaccine hesitancy was “killing people.” The administration became “very angry” when Twitter didn’t fully comply.
“Inevitably, dissident yet legitimate content was labeled as misinformation, and the accounts of doctors and others were suspended both for tweeting opinions and demonstrably true information … In my review of internal files, I found countless instances of tweets labeled as “misleading” or taken down entirely, sometimes triggering account suspensions, simply because they veered from CDC guidance or differed from establishment views,” says Zweig.