Internal documents show Twitter whitelisted CENTCOM accounts that were then used to run its online influence campaign abroad.

By Lee Fang, The Intercept

Twitter Executives have claimed for years that the company makes concerted efforts to detect and thwart government-backed covert propaganda campaigns on its platform.

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Behind the scenes, however, the social networking giant provided direct approval and internal protection to the U.S. military’s network of social media accounts and online personas, whitelisting a batch of accounts at the request of the government. The Pentagon has used this network, which includes U.S. government-generated news portals and memes, in an effort to shape opinion in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, and beyond.

The accounts in question started out openly affiliated with the U.S. government. But then the Pentagon appeared to shift tactics and began concealing its affiliation with some of these accounts — a move toward the type of intentional platform manipulation that Twitter has publicly opposed. Though Twitter executives maintained awareness of the accounts, they did not shut them down, but let them remain active for years. Some remain active.

The revelations are buried in the archives of Twitter’s emails and internal tools, to which The Intercept was granted access for a brief period last week alongside a handful of other writers and reporters. Following Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter, the billionaire started giving access to company documents, saying in a Twitter Space that “the general idea is to surface anything bad Twitter has done in the past.” The files, which included records generated under Musk’s ownership, provide unprecedented, if incomplete, insight into decision-making within a major social media company.

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