Innocent Americans got swept up in shoddy, US government-funded research aimed at getting Twitter users banned for allegedly spreading “foreign” disinformation, the latest “Twitter Files” report revealed Thursday.
The flawed work was the product of the “Global Engagement Center,” which was created in 2017 by the State Department but worked with the FBI, CIA, US Strategic Command and other agencies, independent journalist Matt Taibbi wrote in the 17th installment of the series.
The Twitter users who were flagged reportedly included Cuban immigrant Marysel Urbanik, who tweets from the “JerseyGirl Conservative” account.
“This is un-American,” Urbanik told Taibbi. “They do this in places that don’t believe in free speech.”
Taibbi posted a spreadsheet of 5,500 user names he said the GEC identified as suspected “Chinese…accounts” engaged in “state-backed coordinated manipulation.”
The GEC also reportedly asked Twitter to review 499 accounts suspected of spreading “foreign” disinformation because they tweeted the hashtag #IranisansDebateWithBiden and communicated using the encrypted Signal app.
But Twitter executives apparently saw through the faulty lists, which Taibbi said “included multiple Western government accounts and at least three CNN employees based abroad.”
In a screenshot of an undated message, Twitter’s Patrick Conlon mocked the findings by identifying the CNN correspondents and referring to network anchor Anderson Cooper.
“Not exactly Anderson’s besties, but CNN assets if you will,” he joked.
Yoel Roth, then Twitter’s head of trust and safety, responded, “omg.”
“Really really important to highlight this — what a total crock,” he added.
A former intelligence source cited by Taibbi described the GEC as “an incubator for the domestic disinformation complex.”
“All the s–t we pulled in other countries since the Cold War, some morons decided to bring home,” the source added.
In addition to its own work, the GEC hired the Atlantic Council think tank’s Digital Forensic Research Lab to work for it, Taibbi said.
On June 18, 2021, a DFRLab analyst sent Roth and another Twitter exec a spreadsheet with the names of about 40,000 accounts suspected of “engaging in inauthentic behavior in support of” India’s ruling political party “and Hindu nationalism more broadly,” according to an excerpted email.
“But the list was full of ordinary Americans, many with no connection to India and no clue about Indian politics,” Taibbi wrote.
In addition to Urbanik, Taibbi cited a comment from Twitter user “Bobby Hailstone,” who said, “I have no connection to any Hindu folks… Just a Reagan Republican here in CT.”
“Lady_DI816″ also told Taibbi, “A Hindu nationalist? I’ve never even been out of this country. Let alone the state of NJ.”
Taibbi said DFRLab director Graham Brookie denied using tax money to track Americans and said its grants from the GEC have “an exclusively international focus.”
The Atlantic Council didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post.
In a prepared statement, a State Department spokesperson said, “The GEC does not and has never attempted to moderate content on social media platforms.”
“The GEC’s mandate is to coordinate with other federal agencies to direct, lead, synchronize and coordinate the efforts of the U.S. government to understand the sources and trends in foreign attempts to spread disinformation and propaganda globally,” the spokesperson added.
The “Twitter Files” series is being produced by a team of independent journalists hired by new Twitter owner Elon Musk to scour internal records to expose the company’s “free speech suppression” under previous management.
The first installment on Dec. 2 detailed Twitter’s crackdown on The Post’s Oct. 14, 2020, scoop about Hunter Biden’s laptop, including how it was done behind the back of company founder and then-CEO Jack Dorsey.
Last month, Taibbi told popular podcaster Joe Rogan that Musk “gets a kick out of seeing all this stuff come out on Twitter,” according to Insider.
Taibbi also reportedly praised Musk — who paid $44 billion for Twitter in October — as a “whistleblower” against his own company, which Taibbi described as having previously been a “private stomping ground” for “whiny journalists.”
Since buying the website, Musk has reportedly fired about half of its 7,500 workers, including at least 200 in the latest round this past weekend.
“Say what you want about me, but I acquired the world’s largest non-profit for $44B lol,” Musk tweeted last week.
Taibbi and fellow “Twitter Files” writer Michael Shellenberger are scheduled to testify about their work before the House Judiciary Committee on March 9, Taibbi tweeted Wednesday.
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