The Lead: U.S. Government Censorship
A new round of Twitter files, released Friday, shows how the U.S. government worked with organizations to censor Twitter accounts. This comes from journalist Matt Taibbi.
An email from the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab wrote to Twitter with a list of users that it suspected were “engaging in inauthentic behavior…and Hindu nationalism more broadly.” Only many on the list had nothing to do with that. Many were “ordinary Americans, many with no connection to India and no clue about Indian politics.” They also handed over thousands of accounts that they suspected were “state-backed” Chinese accounts and 499 others that they thought were “foreign idisinformation” with links to Iran.
This research council is funded bu the Global Engagement Center, which is funded by the U.S. goverment. Taibbi points out that the “GEC could have avoided controversy by focusing on exposing/answering ‘disinformation’ with research and a more public approach…. Instead, it funded a secret list of subcontractors and helped pioneer an insidious – and idiotic – new form of blacklisting.”
Twitter did in fact deactivate some of these accounts but in some instances, Twitter pushed back. The government seemingly did this to Facebook too but we have no idea how Facebook reacted because Facebook has been suspiciously quiet about the Twitter Files.
More concerning is how the media picked up reports from these sources. As Taibbi points out, “‘Disinformation studies' has mostly become a con, where non-experts mesmerize reporters with what one former GEC staffer calls “hairball” charts, usually measuring something idiotic – like who follows two Chinese diplomats, or shares an Iranian “FREE PALESTINE” meme.”