3 QUESTIONS - Twitter and psychological warfare

Considering Twitter's role in social movements with its impact on psychological warfare, legitimacy of social media platform likely to become increasingly questionable.

Publication: 13.01.2023 - 17:48
3 QUESTIONS - Twitter and psychological warfare
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The Twitter files demonstrated how social media companies are not hesitating to cooperate with governments and are helping them spread state propaganda to shape public opinion.

The role of social media platforms in psychological warfare has always been controversial. What is psychological warfare? What is Twitter's role as a US propaganda machine? Read on for answers and insight.

What is psychological warfare?

Psychological warfare is a tactic that includes the use of propaganda to demoralize and intimidate opponents without using physical force.

It is also used as a strategy to manipulate the media and lead to changes in human behavior.

States often apply psychological warfare in politics to justify policies and influence opinions.

Such methods can also seek to cause mental distress to opponents by fueling anxiety, fear, and panic, leading to an erosion of their self-confidence.

Today, naval warfare and ground battles are also supported by psychological warfare, which can be described in occupied territories as the systematic process of influencing opinions in the society and actions of the people.

Both traditional and social media have become the main actors in psychological warfare.

What is the role of Twitter in psychological warfare?

Public perception management through social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is a significant part of the toolkit in modern psychological warfare.

Especially on Twitter, fake accounts are known to be created with the aim of influencing users' beliefs and opinions.

Since Elon Musk's takeover of the platform last year, multiple revelations have shown how Twitter became a medium for conducting psychological warfare.

The files, revealed by some journalists like Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, and Michael Shellenberger, proved that Twitter worked with the US military.

The internal files also revealed how Twitter restricted the visibility of some accounts, as well as the process of banning the account of former US President Donald Trump. The US military also had the campaign to amplify its propaganda on Twitter.

Files also explained how previous Twitter officials cooperated with the FBI, Pentagon, and CIA to implement censorship measures.

Did Twitter help US with its propaganda campaign in Middle East?

The Twitter Files made the headlines across the world. They included documents released by independent journalist Lee Fang showing how the social media giant helped US intelligence officials in their covert online propaganda campaign.

Fang said that though Twitter claimed it did not allow US-backed propaganda operations, the company did not prevent the activities of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), despite being aware of them.

Twitter gave its approval to accounts created by CENTCOM aimed at shaping opinion and conducting psychological warfare in some Middle Eastern countries.

This censorship policy dates back to five years ago, when some accounts were removed from the site for working against the interests of the US in the Middle East.

Twitter also worked with the Pentagon to run the US military's propaganda activities in the region.

Some state-backed accounts, meanwhile, were whitelisted, preventing them from being suspended.

Fang also noted that Twitter did not bar those accounts despite being aware of the US Department of Defense's large networks of fake accounts and secret propaganda profiles.

At the request of the US government, those propaganda accounts were given the privilege of verification, amounting to protection by the company.

New revelations will likely continue to flow from Twitter in the upcoming days.

Considering the role of Twitter in social movements and its impact on psychological warfare, it can be said that the legitimacy of the social media platform will come increasingly under question.

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