by James Bovard
Have you ever tweeted about Russia? You could be tarred as an “unwitting proliferator of Russian narratives” by US government scorekeepers.
Do you support the French “yellow vest” anti-lockdown protests? You are “Russia-aligned,” according to Uncle Sam.
Are you a Cuban immigrant to America?
A federal contractor might try to get you banned on Twitter because you’re a Hindu nationalist.
Journalist Matt Taibbi is back with perhaps the most bizarre installment yet of the Twitter Files.
Americans’ freedom of speech is increasingly endangered by a vast, federally funded Disinformation Industrial Complex.
The feds and their contractors are going on ever-more wild goose chases to suppress any views the Washington establishment disapproves.
Taibbi reveals the “devastating secret” behind the “sprawling complex of disinformation studies ‘labs’ at” top universities: “Most of these ‘experts’ know nothing.”
In 2016, President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13721 to establish the “Global Engagement Center” to “counter the messaging and diminish the influence of international terrorist organizations.”
GEC is based in the State Department but also partners with the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, National Security Agency and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
What could possibly go wrong?
Thanks to GEC, “America’s information warfare mechanism turned inward, against ‘threats’ in our own population,” Taibbi writes. Disinformation became the most fashionable crusade.
Disinformation is so perfidious that the GEC tries to keep its operations secret.
The center has a budget of roughly $74 million and “reportedly gave to at least 39 different organizations, whose names were redacted” in an inspector general report.
GEC “funded a secret list of subcontractors and helped pioneer an insidious — and idiotic — new form of blacklisting,” as Taibbi puts it.
There are foreign-government Twitter accounts, the same as US-government secret accounts (aided by Twitter), that are used for propaganda purposes.
But GEC, whose motto seems to be “Close enough for government work,” relies on carpet-bombing vast numbers of Twitter targets in hopes of hitting the bad guys.
GEC has doubled their budget by aggressively overstating threats through unverified accusations,” according to a top Twitter official.
The list was so sloppy, it “included multiple Western government accounts and at least three CNN employees based abroad.”
Twitter Trust and Safety chief Yoel Roth scoffed at the list in an internal message: “What a total crock.”
GEC alerted Twitter to almost 500 accounts as “foreign” disinformation on ludicrous grounds, such as the users tweeting #IraniansDebateWithBiden — including personal acquaintances of The Post’s op-ed editor.
In June 2021, a GEC contractor sent Twitter a message: “Hi guys. Attached you will find . . . around 40k twitter accounts that our researchers suspect are engaging in inauthentic behavior . . . and Hindu nationalism more broadly.”
But the list was full of hapless Americans with no ties to India or its politics.
Any Twitter accounts that posted opinions concurring with Russian government positions could be presumed to be “Moscow controlled.”
One Twitter executive scorned the presumption that “If you retweet a news source linked to Russia, you become Russia-linked.”
GEC relies on “guilt by intellectual association” to justify suppressing vast numbers of Twitter accounts suspected of being part of foreign “ecosystems.”
A GEC chart on “Pillars of Russia’s Disinformation and Propaganda Ecosystem” asserts that “weaponization of social media” includes “standing campaigns to undermine faith in institutions” or “amplification of protests or civil discord.”
Such blanket categories could bust many, if not most, Biden critics.
Thursday’s Twitter Files is not GEC’s first jaw-dropping pratfall.
Elon Musk declared that in 2020 GEC “demanded suspension of 250K accounts, including journalists and Canadian officials!”
Many of the accounts were condemned because they suggested COVID originated in a lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology — a heresy at the time. Since then, the FBI and US Department of Energy concluded the virus did originate in that lab.
GEC’s efforts vivify how federal censorship serves political convenience, not the truth.
A former intelligence source groused, “All the shit we pulled in other countries since the Cold War, some morons decided to bring home.”
Twitter rebuffed many of GEC’s requests to cancel accounts, but many innocent Americans were likely either silenced or tainted in the process.
“Disinformation” is often simply the lag time between the pronouncement and the debunking of government falsehoods.
Taibbi laments the “collective panic over ‘disinfo’ defining this generation in much the same way the Red Scare defined the culture of the fifties.”
The latest Twitter Files is a fresh spur for Congress to take a scorched-earth approach to expose federal censorship regimes.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.