‘Pushed By Elements Of The Kremlin’: State Dept. Defends Labeling Lab Leak ‘Foreign Disinformation,’ Flagging Tweets On Subject


Dylan Housman Deputy News Editor
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The State Department on Thursday denied asking Twitter to censor certain posts and accounts due to being “foreign disinformation” after internal Twitter communications revealed the department reportedly flagged some tweets as problematic for Twitter staff.

In the latest batch of the “Twitter Files” published by journalist Matt Taibbi, documents purportedly showed that the Global Engagement Center (GEC), an office within the State Department, was working with Twitter to identify certain posts and accounts spreading alleged “disinformation” on behalf of foreign governments. During a press briefing Thursday, State Department Spokesman Ned Price denied this had been done for the purpose of censorship, insisting it was simply an informative service for Twitter and meant to protect American interests.

“I will say that I just want to correct the mischaracterization,” Price said in response to a question about the report. “The purported Twitter email you cite clearly states the GEC provided a list of Twitter accounts with link[s] to Russian sources of propaganda for Twitter’s situational awareness, and there was no action request that the GEC purportedly made of Twitter in that email.”

“The GEC does not attempt to moderate content on social media platforms. Its role is to identify foreign disinformation narratives, trends and techniques that are aimed at undercutting U.S. national interests,” he continued.

Price referenced a GEC report issued in early 2020, which identified certain alleged disinformation narratives about COVID-19 coming from foreign governments, particularly Russia. One of those narratives speculated the virus may have emerged from a lab in Wuhan, China, or otherwise could be related to bat research in the region. Price did not directly answer the question of whether the State Department still considers that narrative to be disinformation.

Price also responded to a question about the purpose behind flagging certain posts for Twitter, if not to have them removed.

“Well, this goes back to the GEC’s role, and its very role is to identify those disinformation narratives,” he said. “Social media platforms have their own terms of service. Social media companies want to be in a position to enforce their own terms of service. It’s not up for us to decide what a company must or should do. But when we see something that may have a foreign disinformation nexus aimed at undermining U.S. national interests, it would be negligent not to flag that for a social media platform and to allow them to then determine whether, pursuant to their own terms of service, any action should or should not be taken.”

Regarding whether or not speculation about the origins of COVID-19 in China was still considered disinformation, Price simply claimed it was a narrative pushed by the Kremlin. (RELATED: World Health Organization Finally Calls Out China For Lying About COVID-19)

“What the report notes is the notion that these narratives were being pushed by elements of the Kremlin, of the Russian Federation,” he said. “Disinformation that has a foreign government or foreign nexus is of concern to the GEC, but more broadly, it’s of concern to the United States when the intent is to undermine U.S. national interests.”