The US Defense Department has launched a review of its psychological warfare operations after discovering fake accounts on social media promoting pro-Western propaganda, an official confirmed Tuesday.
Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder confirms review after Washington Post report good said that social media giants Facebook and Twitter had shut down several fake accounts created by the US military.
Ryder did not confirm or deny that the military was behind the fake accounts, and said the information still needs to be reviewed.
He cautioned against assuming that the Defense Department was behind the accounts, making it possible that some other government agency was involved.
He added that the review “is an opportunity for us to assess the current work being done in this area.”
The Washington Post last month referred to a report by Graphica and the Stanford Internet Observatory on pro-Western covert influence operations.
The report said that Twitter and Facebook’s parent Meta had involved about 150 US and UK-origin accounts in July and August engaging in “unsubstantiated behaviour”.
The Graphica-Stanford investigation stated that, after analyzing the accounts, they discovered an interconnected web of accounts on eight social media platforms used to promote pro-Western narratives in the Middle East and Central Asia. Were using “misleading tactics”.
The reports said the accounts came from multiple campaigns over five years, rather than a single effort.
The accounts “consistently advanced narratives promoting the interests of the United States and its allies while opposing countries including Russia, China and Iran,” it said.
Citing unnamed government sources, the Washington Post linked at least some of the activities to the Pentagon, and said officials from the US Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East, were “facing investigations.”
Ryder said the Army’s psychological operations, or “military information support operations,” are structured and legal, and are meant to support activities in the field.
“These are not public affairs operations,” he said.
“This is an aspect of war that is as old as war, and we conduct those operations in support of national security priorities,” he told reporters.
He noted that military deception operations were important in World War II, and are an integral part of the combat toolkit.
“There are opportunities to campaign against opponents where you might want to use information in a way that helps them think a certain way – not true information,” he said.
“What I would highlight is that they must be done in compliance with US law and Department of Defense policy and we have safeguards in place and are committed to following those safeguards,” he said.