An office within the State Department allegedly funded a think tank group that falsely labeled ordinary Americans as foreign political operatives, according to the latest batch of the “Twitter Files.”
The Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRL) reportedly provided a list of 40,000 accounts to Twitter in June of 2021 that were allegedly engaging in “inauthentic behavior” that promoted Hindu nationalism and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) political party in India, according to Matt Taibbi. The DFRL reportedly received funding from the Global Engagement Center (GEC), an office within the State Department tasked with combatting misinformation.
3. DFRLab said it suspected 40,000 accounts of being “paid employees or possibly volunteers” of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
But the list was full of ordinary Americans, many with no connection to India and no clue about Indian politics. https://t.co/B5L8KsY6ZH pic.twitter.com/vqijzp9BR2
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) March 2, 2023
The DFRL denied it used GEC grant money to track Americans, insisting that it only used those funds for international activities, according to Taibbi. Taibbi contacted a number of the Americans on the list of accounts, who reportedly attested that they had no involvement in Indian politics or knowledge of Hindu nationalism at all.
The GEC allegedly provided other lists of accounts to Twitter that it believed were acting on behalf of foreign states like China and Iran. Many of the thousands of accounts on the list seemingly had no connection to the allegations against them. For instance, three CNN employees were reportedly on the Chinese foreign influence list, as were some Western government accounts, according to Taibbi.
Twitter’s safety chief Yoel Roth reportedly called the lists a “total crock.” Another Twitter employee, Aaron Rodericks, reportedly said the GEC’s reports were “more entertainment than anything,” according to Taibbi.
“GEC has doubled their budget by aggressively overstating threats through unverified accusations that can’t be replicated either by external academics or by Twitter,” Rodericks reportedly added in an email published by Taibbi. (RELATED: ‘They Have To Do It To Their Own Population’: Former Top Obama Official Said He Was Called ‘Chief Propagandist’)
Despite Twitter executives apparently showing skepticism toward the DFRL and GEC findings and ultimately not acting on them, Taibbi reported that the findings were distributed to a number of mainstream media outlets that did publish reports on “foreign disinformation” based on GEC intel.
Prior reporting by the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) has shown that the State Department funded foreign institutions that worked to suppress conservative media outlets online. A previous edition of the Twitter Files showed that the GEC reportedly flagged Twitter accounts that were promoting the lab leak theory of COVID-19 origin, accusing them of engaging in “Russian disinformation.” However, the State Department denied that it was flagging accounts for the purpose of censoring them.