Lee Fang Profile picture
Dec 20, 2022 22 tweets 7 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter

*How Twitter 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 U.S. military’s influence operations.
2. Twitter has claimed for years that they make concerted efforts to detect & thwart gov-backed platform manipulation. Here is Twitter testifying to Congress about its pledge to rapidly identify and shut down all state-backed covert information operations & deceptive propaganda. Image
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.
4. In 2017, a U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) official sent Twitter a list of 52 Arab language accounts “we use to amplify certain messages.” The official asked for priority service for six accounts, verification for one & “whitelist” abilities for the others. Image
5. The same day CENTCOM sent the list, Twitter officials used a tool to grant a special “whitelist” tag that essentially provides verification status to the accounts w/o the blue check, meaning they are exempt from spam/abuse flags, more visible/likely to trend on hashtags.
6. The CENTCOM accounts on the list tweeted frequently about U.S. military priorities in the Middle East, including promoting anti-Iran messages, promotion of the Saudi Arabia-U.S. backed war in Yemen, and “accurate” U.S. drone strikes that claimed to only hit terrorists. ImageImageImage
7. CENTCOM then shifted strategies & deleted disclosures of ties to the Twitter accounts. The bios of the accounts changed to seemingly organic profiles. One bio read: “Euphrates pulse.” Another used an apparent deep fake profile pic & claimed to be a source of Iraqi opinion. ImageImage
8. 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.
9. For example, Twitter lawyer Jim Baker mused in a July 2020 email, about an upcoming DoD meeting, that the Pentagon used "poor tradecraft" in setting up its network, and were seeking strategies for not exposing the accounts that are “linked to each other or to DoD or the USG.”
10. Stacia Cardille, another Twitter attorney, replied that the Pentagon wanted a SCIF & may want to retroactively classify its social media activities “to obfuscate their activity in this space, and that this may represent an overclassification to avoid embarrassment.” Image
11. 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.
12. In a May 2020 email, Twitter’s Lisa Roman emailed the DoD w/two lists. One list was accounts “previously provided to us” & another list Twitter detected. The accounts tweeted in Russian & Arabic on US military issues in Syria/ISIS & many also did not disclose Pentagon ties. Image
13. Many of these secretive U.S. 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.
14. In August 2022, a Stanford Internet Observatory report exposed a U.S. military covert propaganda network on Facebook, Telegram, Twitter & other apps using fake news portals and deep fake images and memes against U.S. foreign adversaries. public-assets.graphika.com/reports/graphi…
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.
16. The Stanford report did not identify all of the accounts in the network but one they did name was the exact same Twitter account CENTCOM asked for whitelist privileges in its 2017 email. I verified via Twitter’s internal tools. The account used an AI-created deep fake image. ImageImage
17. 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.
18. 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.
19. Twitter’s comms team was closely in touch with reporters, working to minimize Twitter’s role. When the WashPost reported on the scandal, Twitter officials congratulated each other because the story didn’t mention any Twitter employees & focused largely on the Pentagon. ImageImage
20. The conduct with the U.S. 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.
21. Here is my reported piece w/more detail. I was given access to Twitter for a few days. I signed/agreed to nothing, Twitter had no input into anything I did or wrote. The searches were carried out by a Twitter attorney, so what I saw could be limited.

If you want details about how I go about my reporting, a little more about myself, and further documentation & discussion, I just started a Substack. Sign up here: leefang.substack.com/p/creating-a-s…

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Lee Fang

Lee Fang Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @lhfang

May 15
The FBI is hounding vegan activists as a domestic terror threat.

In an exclusive memo I am publishing, the FBI lied to depict vegan activists as a bioterror threat. The agency also raided shelters & attempted to recruit an informant to sell illegal guns to the activists. Image
The FBI's bioterror warning is based entirely on press accounts of vegan activists "rescuing" chickens from farms. The agency claims they took no biosafety precautions -- but the pictures, video, and press accounts show the opposite, that they wore gloves & full-body gowns.
It's one of many unusually aggressive efforts by the national security state to depict vegans as a domestic terror threat. Newly released docs show DHS similarly depicting a young woman simply interested in animal cruelty issues as a potential source of violent extremism. Image
Read 4 tweets
May 10
That anime cartoon avi anon in your DM group could actually be a spy.

I have a new investigation of "threat intel" firms -- contractors hired by corporations and the gov, including the FBI, to infiltrate private forums on sites like Reddit, Discord, WhatsApp & Telegram.

I talked to leading firms in the industry, including ZeroFox, DarkOwl, Searchlight Cyber, Flashpoint, & CyberInt. Several firms told me they create online personas that spend years building credibility & contacts to gain access to invite-only chat groups. ImageImage
Here's a marketing video from CyberInt, a threat intel firm based in Israel w/ global clients.

“I prefer to detect threat actors when they are young or starting out at 14 or 15. That's when I start observing and documenting their malicious activities."
Read 5 tweets
Apr 30
I have a friend in SF whose home under renovation construction has been burglarized *eight* times recently — they steal tools, appliances, washer dryer, etc. Cops literally won’t do anything. He has video footage of perps, who work in teams w getaway car. Police shrug it off.
It’s insane. A huge break in happens, he calls police, they never come. Happens again a few times, they reply many days late. On the 8th time yesterday a few officers show up and say they can’t do anything. Security cam footage looks like one of the perps might have had a gun.
Absolutely not lol. This person supports public safety and votes accordingly. Yet SF city services are garbage if you live under threat of violence. Basic government services are gutted by far left pressure groups.
Read 5 tweets
Apr 11
Here is my first Substack story. Mehdi Hasan claimed Taibbi “deliberately & under oath misrepresented” the facts about the DHS/CISA's work w/content moderation org EIP. That's a serious charge, one that I debunk with new Twitter Files emails & other docs. leefang.substack.com/p/msnbcs-mehdi…
Mehdi claimed Taibbi lied under oath to Congress - a felony that can be prosecuted with prison - by claiming CISA worked with EIP on content moderation. Mehdi says the truth is that only a private sector org w/ a similar acronym, CIS, worked w/EIP. Mehdi is wrong and here's how.
EIP had an internal ticketing system to flag content for censorship to Twitter, and an internal messaging system to alert CIS *AND* CISA. DHS/CISA elevate EIP-flagged tweets for Twitter. Here is a newly unearthed Twitter email in Oct 2020 showing the process. Image
Read 12 tweets
Jan 16
1. New piece from the TWITTER FILES.
How the pharmaceutical industry lobbied social media to shape content around vaccine policy.

The push included direct pressure from Pfizer partner BioNTech to censor activists demanding low-cost generic vaccines for low-income countries.
2. In 2020, it was clear that the pandemic would require rapid innovation. Early on, there was a push to make the solution equitable: an international partnership to share ideas, technology, new forms of medicine to rapidly solve this crisis. medicinespatentpool.org/news-publicati…
3. But global drug giants saw the crisis as an opportunity for unprecedented profit. Behind closed doors, pharma launched a massive lobbying blitz to crush any effort to share patents/IP for new covid-related medicine, including therapeutics and vaccines.
Read 15 tweets
Oct 31, 2022
Docs show Facebook and Twitter closely collaborating w/ Dept of Homeland Security, FBI to police “disinfo.” Plans to expand censorship on topics like withdrawal from Afghanistan, origins of COVID, info that undermines trust in financial institutions. interc.pt/3Dq6TDB
FBI agent Laura Dehmlow was in communications w Facebook that led to the suppression of the Hunter Biden laptop story in 2020 over the false allegation that it was “disinfo.” This year, she met w/ Twitter/DHS to stress “we need a media infrastructure that is held accountable.” ImageImage
Facebook and Twitter created special portals for the government to rapidly request takedowns of content. The portals, along with NGO partners used to censor a wide range of content, including obvious parody accounts and content disagreeing w gov pandemic policy. Image
Read 9 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Don't want to be a Premium member but still want to support us?

Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Or Donate anonymously using crypto!


0xfe58350B80634f60Fa6Dc149a72b4DFbc17D341E copy


3ATGMxNzCUFzxpMCHL5sWSt4DVtS8UqXpi copy

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!