Pentagon riding the "blue bird" in psychological warfare - The

Pentagon riding the “blue bird” in psychological warfare

The social media giant claimed to have a long-held stance on foreign influence operations but worked shoulder-to-shoulder with the Pentagon.

Pentagon riding the “blue bird” in psychological warfare – The revelation has been made in the latest batch of “Twitter Files” that are being leaked to several journalists.

The screenshots, emails, and chat logs show how Twitter helped the U.S. government operate its secret propaganda and disinformation campaign.

The sole aim was to influence public opinion.

Among the goals and focus was Iran and the war on Yemen.

Spreading anti-Iran propaganda by consecutive U.S. government officials has been well-documented for decades now.

Using social media to spread anti-Iran propaganda and to shape public opinion in West Asia against Tehran has been emerging recently in media reports.

The U.S. military and intelligence community have long used a policy of fake online personas and third parties to “amplify” U.S. narratives in West Asia.

For example, using an authentic-looking Persian-language post can have greater influence and appeal instead of an official press release by the Pentagon.

For years, senior Twitter executives said they were working very hard and making “concerted efforts” to allegedly stop foreign government-backed accounts from spreading propaganda on their company’s platform.

In 2020, Twitter spokesperson Nick Pickles, in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, said that the company was taking “aggressive efforts” to shut down “coordinated platform manipulation efforts” attributed to government agencies.

This is while foreign governments rejected such accusations.

Now it has come to light that the government agencies spreading state propaganda, Twitter was referring to, was the U.S. government itself.

New internal documents show how the social media giant “whitewashed” a network of accounts affiliated with the U.S. military to change public opinion in West Asia.

And despite executives at the social media platform being aware of these accounts, they did not shut them down.

Instead, they allowed them to remain active for years, and the leaked documents show that some are still active.

Twitter places a visible blue mark next to accounts that the company verifies as genuine. Accounts with blue marks enjoy extra privileges.

The “whitelist” essentially gave Pentagon accounts the same privileges of verification without the visible blue mark.

It raises serious questions about the decision-making and malicious manipulating practices of Twitter before the company was sold to billionaire Elon Musk.

It has now been revealed the secret cooperation between Twitter and the Pentagon stretches back at least five years.

One account, which was run by Twitter and CENTCOM, the U.S. Central Command, which operates in West Asia, under the username @yemencurrent (now deleted), promoted propaganda and fake news on the U.S. and Saudi-backed war on Yemen.

Other accounts focused on promoting U.S.-backed militias in Syria, who are violating the country’s sovereignty and looting oil belonging to the government in Damascus.

Other accounts promoted anti-Iran propaganda in Iraq. The Pentagon used Arabic-language accounts when tweeting its propaganda issues.

Coincidentally, that’s when violent, deadly riots unfolded in Iraq by a group of thugs who murdered and torched the offices of anti-terror forces after they defeated Daesh with the help of military advisors from Tehran.

Another CENTCOM account, @althughur, posts anti-Iran propaganda focused on the Iraqi public as well. It also changed its Twitter bio from a CENTCOM affiliation to an Arabic sentence that reads “Euphrates pulse.”

Iraqi officials had complained of suspicious social media accounts spreading disinformation, directly accusing the U.S. embassy at the time.

This now indicates how widespread the Pentagon anti-Iran propaganda campaign had been.

The leaked internal logs show Twitter applied a special exemption tag to the CENTCOM accounts on the same day the request was sent by the United States Central Command for West Asia.

One Pentagon account by the username of @mktashif was identified by Twitter researchers as appearing to use a deep-fake photo to hide its real identity.

This account initially identified itself in its biography or profile as a U.S. government account affiliated with CENTCOM.

This information later changed to what non-Twitter researchers identified as a “deep fake.”

The new Twitter bio claimed that the account was an unbiased source of opinion and information and, roughly translated from Arabic, “dedicated to serving Iraqis and Arabs.”

The account routinely posted propaganda against Iran and the popular revolution in Yemen. It has now been deleted.

Erik Sperling, the executive director of Just Foreign Policy, a nonprofit that works toward diplomatic solutions to foreign conflicts, says “It’s deeply concerning if the Pentagon is working to shape public opinion about our military’s role abroad and even worse if private companies are helping to conceal it.”

It might be deeply concerning, but it certainly doesn’t come as a surprise.

“Congress and social media companies should investigate and take action to ensure that, at the very least, our citizens are fully informed when their tax money is being spent on putting a positive spin on our endless wars,” Sperling added.

Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and other American adversaries have long accused Washington of using social media platforms to wage a hybrid war against sovereign countries opposed to American foreign policies and wars.

This is especially true in Latin American countries, where the Pentagon has been seeking regime change across the region.

A report by the Washington Post in 2020 revealed that officials from Facebook identified fake accounts attributed to CENTCOM’s influence operation on its social media platform.

Leaked Twitter emails show that in 2020, the senior Pentagon attorneys invited Facebook and Twitter executives to attend classified briefings in a sensitive compartmented information facility, also known as a SCIF, used for highly sensitive meetings.

On July 26, 2017, Nathaniel Kahler, at the time an official working with CENTCOM, sent an email to Twitter with a request to approve the verification of one account and “whitelist” a list of Arabic-language accounts “we use to amplify certain messages.”

Stacia Cardille, then an attorney with Twitter, noted in an email to her colleagues that the Pentagon may want to change its previous activities by classifying its use of social media “to avoid embarrassment.”

“Combatting attempts to interfere in conversations on Twitter remains a top priority for the company, and we continue to invest heavily in our detection, disruption, and transparency efforts related to state-backed information operations. Our goal is to remove bad-faith actors and to advance public understanding of these critical topics,” Twitter claims.

The latest leaks are in line with a major report published in August by the Stanford Internet Observatory, which focused on thousands of accounts that they suspected to be part of a U.S. state-backed disinformation operation, many of which used photorealistic human faces generated by artificial intelligence, a practice is also known as “deep fakes.”

The researchers connected these accounts with a vast online ecosystem that included “fake news” websites, meme accounts on other social media platforms such as Telegram and Facebook, and online personalities that echoed Pentagon messages without disclosure of any Pentagon affiliation.

Some of the accounts claimed Iran was “threatening Iraq’s water security and flooding the country with crystal meth,” while others promoted allegations that Iran was harvesting the organs of Afghan refugees.

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