Even Twitter Works for the Pentagon

The Intercept provided evidence on Tuesday about the incestuous and long-standing relationship between the social network Twitter and the Pentagon. The platform has not only helped amplify certain messages in countries designated as enemies by the U.S. government, but executives at the network of the little blue bird have also granted the U.S. Department of Defense special privileges for covert internet campaigns for at least five years.

While promising to shut down covert state propaganda networks and tagged media outlets and journalists, behind the scenes Twitter was opening a back door to the psychological warfare operations of the U.S. army, creating fake accounts with artificial intelligence systems and posing as foreign actors to sow discord between countries.

According to the report, the U.S. Central Command sent an email to Twitter in 2017 requesting verification and white listing of several dozen fake Arabic-language accounts. Immediately the platform applied a special exemption label that granted the privileges that verified accounts have, distinguished with a visible blue mark.

Although the Pentagon allegedly promised not to hide their affiliation, the military-operated accounts posed as ordinary users or impartial sources of opinion and information that systematically attacked Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq, while the drone strikes in Yemen were presented as “precise” and with an almost rational ability to kill terrorists without touching any civilians.

These revelations are in addition to those published in August 2022 by the Stanford University Internet Observatory, which exposed a covert Washington military propaganda network on Facebook, Telegram, Twitter and other applications using fake news portals, fake images and fake memes against U.S. foreign adversaries. Among the lies amplified using this methodology on Twitter is the claim that Iran floods Iraq with methamphetamine and traffics in the organs of Afghan refugees.

The evidence is shocking, but the news that Twitter works for the Pentagon is not surprising, something that is not the exception but the rule of American platforms. Also on Tuesday, journalist Michael Shellenberger unveiled the plot by which the FBI had handed over almost $3.5 million of taxpayer money to Twitter to pay its staff and handle the bureau’s requests seeking the censorship of messages and the closing of accounts.

The CEO of Twitter, Elon Musk, has facilitated access to all this mess that tarnishes the previous owners of the platform and has said, in relation to the Pentagon and the email plot between the FBI and the social network: The government paid Twitter millions of dollars to censor the public’s information. Musk, who is the mega-rich favorite of those members of the antiestablishment who adore Donald Trump, has not explained why he has decided to take all the skeletons out of the closet now, but presumably, true to himself, somewhere between the gasoline can and the truth, he’s playing with matches.

None of this is surprising, I repeat, but it is terrifying to imagine how much more is still swept under the rug. Since 1982, when the CIA managed to inject a Trojan horse into a Soviet gas pipeline that exploded, the combat tactics of the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies in cyberspace have been documented in a fragmentary and scattered way, with blockages, infiltration in networks, data collection, interference of wireless signals, counterfeit computer programs and attacks through viruses, worms and logic bombs.

To all this must be added that the U.S. is the country with the greatest organizational capacity for automated propaganda campaigns and information hoaxes on the net, according to the Oxford Internet Institute. For example, during the coup d’état in Bolivia in November 2019, the Spanish researcher Julián Macías Tovar revealed the participation of a robot coordinated by a programmer with military training, linked to the U.S. Army and capable of sending more than 200 tweets per minute with content favorable to the coup plotters.

There can be no more pitiful x-ray of the twilight of an empire than this vulgar episode that links Twitter with the Pentagon and the FBI, while the platform stands as the vestal virgin of freedom of expression and good customs in community. Ignorance, conspiracy, violence, hypocrisy and moral ignominy are some of the notes of this fatal symphony.

There is more gunpowder in these revelations than in Musk’s matches, but the panorama of destructive irrationality coming from Washington follows the same pattern of all wars: He who pays, commands.

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