Twitter pushed the Pentagon’s Middle East war propaganda, and both will likely get away with it
Information continues to roll out about how Twitter knowingly became a conduit for US propaganda efforts abroad that only serve to produce more violence and chaos. Sadly, this news has seemingly been greeted with a collective yawn by both the US corporate press and the American public.
A recent article by The Intercept details how Twitter facilitated efforts by US Central Command (CENTCOM), a division of the US Defense Department, to spread propaganda, particularly in and about the Middle East, using fake accounts posing as private individuals in the region.
These accounts were given special treatment by Twitter, which accorded them the same privileges as ‘blue-checked’ verified accounts, which, as The Intercept article describes, “would have bestowed a number of advantages, such as invulnerability to algorithmic bots that flag accounts for spam or abuse, as well as other strikes that lead to decreased visibility or suspension.”
And, of course, this was being done at a time when Twitter was deleting hundreds of accounts it viewed as associated with the Russian government and designating other such accounts as “Russian-state affiliated media” even when, as in the case of some of my friends, such as Fiorella Isabel, these accounts were of private individuals writing in their own, personal capacity.
One example of an account given “priority service” by Twitter was @yemencurrent (now deleted), which, among other things, “had emphasized that U.S. drone strikes were ‘accurate’ and killed terrorists, not civilians, and promoted the U.S. and Saudi-backed assault on Houthi rebels in that country.” Such a whitewashing of the US-Saudi war on Yemen – a war barely covered in the US press and therefore barely known to most Americans – is especially infuriating given that that war has been marked by the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure on a colossal scale and by the US government’s willful failure to even properly account for civilian casualties.
The US’ own Government Accountability Office has, in a restricted-access document reported upon by the New York Times in June, concluded that, since the war began in 2015, “[t]he State Department and the Defense Department have failed to assess civilian casualties caused by a Saudi-led coalition in the catastrophic war in Yemen and the use of American-made weapons in the killings . . . .”
The NYT also reported that earlier, “in August 2020, the State Department inspector general issued a report that said the department had failed to take proper measures to reduce civilian deaths.” The result has been an estimated 150,000+ deaths, including nearly 15,000 civilians, and one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in history.
And yet, Twitter aided and abetted CENTCOM’s misinformation campaign through fake accounts claiming that civilians were somehow not being harmed by US-manufactured weapons – claims that deceive American taxpayers about the war they are bankrolling, and which are designed to prime the government pumps for more aid to this unholy conflict that President Biden had promised to stop funding.
According to The Intercept article, other fake CENTCOM accounts given priority by Twitter “focused on promoting U.S.-supported militias in Syria and anti-Iran messages in Iraq.” Again, few Americans are aware that many of these militia groups the US has backed in Syria, while claiming to be “moderate rebels,” have themselves carried out terrible atrocities against civilians in that country. Fake Twitter accounts promoting such militia groups only further obfuscate this subject.
As for the “anti-Iran messages in Iraq” and elsewhere, The Intercept explains that, as reported earlier by the Stanford Internet Observatory, some of the fake Twitter accounts falsely “accuse Iran of ‘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.” Such propaganda has a dual purpose: to gin up tensions and conflict between nations in the Middle East and to manufacture consent in the US for potential armed conflict between the US itself and Iran.
In other words, Twitter has been aiding and abetting the US Defense Department in war propaganda, an act that was established to be a crime in the post-WWII Nuremberg trials. If we had a fair and working system of international law, Twitter and Defense Department officials involved in such offenses would indeed be investigated. However, we do not have such a system. Therefore, it is up to the American people to act, having learned of such misconduct by their government and by the social media companies they rely upon to hold them accountable.
It is also up to Americans to finally realize that, when it comes to matters of war and peace, they are being lied to constantly, and they must withhold their consent for the wars that our government undertakes with the help of traditional and social media alike.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.