U.S. officials say that White House officials expressed their concerns to military officials about the latter’s efforts to disseminate pro-American messaging on social media. This prompted the Pentagon to order a review of covert operations to influence populations in other countries. White House officials also expressed their concerns to military officials.
This evaluation comes as a result of a decision made by Twitter and Facebook over the summer to shut down deceptive accounts that they thought were transmitting messages about the interests of the United States government in other countries.
According to scholars that study disinformation, the efforts may be roughly divided into two categories. The majority of the efforts promoted pro-American sentiments, including memes and slogans that were effusive in their acclaim for the United States. These operations were quite similar to the way in which the Chinese government often disseminates misinformation by planting positive messages about living in China.
However, one effort that targeted Iran communicated statements that were contentious about living in that country. The accounts in question disseminated viewpoints that were both supportive of and critical of the Iranian regime. This misinformation campaign was quite similar to the techniques employed by Russia to influence the presidential election in the United States in 2016.
Over the course of many years, military commanders in the United States have disseminated pro-American news and messages to audiences located outside of the country, which has sometimes drawn the attention of Congress. However, the decision made by social media firms to take down certain accounts affiliated with the military gave the impression that the activity had reached a higher level.
The two organisations believe that the Trans-Regional Web Initiative, a Pentagon programme that has been around for more than ten years and distributes information in support of the United States in regions where the United States military operates, was responsible for some of the accounts that were suspended by Facebook and Twitter.
The posts displayed a broad range of levels of sophistication. Some of the more sophisticated work was directed towards users of Twitter and Telegram in Iran, and it promoted a diverse range of opinions. Researchers said that some of the communications were supportive of the Iranian government, which is the type of behaviour that might possibly be aimed to inflame discussion and sow divides within the nation. The vast majority of the messages were critical of the Iranian government.
Several American officials have said that the accounts that were stopped were connected to the United States military. However, they have not disclosed whether or not any attempts were made to disseminate information in Iran.
The show was reminiscent of the propaganda tactics that totalitarian regimes have used to promote their ideas not just domestically but even internationally. However, specialists in the field of deception claim that they were not particularly effective. According to the findings of the investigation, the majority of the tweets got just a “handful” of likes or retweets, and only 19 percent of the accounts that were found had more than 1,000 followers.
Previous influence efforts on social networks that were sponsored by country governments have been mostly linked to Russia, China, Iran, and other countries that are rivals of the United States.
Russia was a leader in the development of many of these strategies for spreading misinformation online, including the use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks to disseminate content that sows discord. Some of the initial attempts made by the government were focused on disseminating pro-Kremlin propaganda in Eastern European countries. Many nations throughout the globe have adopted Russia’s military strategies.
During the last eight years, Facebook has identified over a dozen nations that have engaged in disinformation campaigns similar to those conducted by Russia. These nations include Iran, Sudan, and Nicaragua. The organisation now releases reports on a monthly basis, in which it details the latest misinformation efforts that it has eradicated.
In 2008, the Special Operations Command was the organisation that initiated what would later become known as the Trans-Regional Web Initiative. Over the course of time, the United States Central Command and other military headquarters also started putting out propaganda that was honest but pro-American. The operations of Central Command initially consisted of posting news pieces on websites that were directed toward audiences in North Africa and the Middle East.
Following the publication of a damning report by the Government Accountability Office, in 2013 Congress enacted a defence authorization bill that included a provision mandating that the effort not be financed the following year. On Monday, officials from the Pentagon did not address any questions that were asked regarding the project.
Following the publication of the report by Stanford University, some United States government officials who had been briefed on the programme disputed the notion that the accounts were fake. These officials stated that some of the profile pages of the accounts indicated that the users were affiliated with Central Command.
However, it is unclear how many of the accounts had such a disclosure or whether there was a larger effort to conceal their relationship to the military. This may indicate that there was an attempt.
The individual from the administration claimed that White House officials were worried that the strategy for information operations at the Pentagon was too wide and that covert initiatives may harm American confidence, even if the information that was being pushed was true.