Pentagon officials have ordered a sweeping review of US information warfare operations conducted through social media platforms, The Washington Post reports, after Twitter and Meta both identified networks of fake accounts believed to be connected to the US military.
Citing interviews with unnamed defense officials, the Post states that Colin Kahl, undersecretary for policy within the Department of Defense, instructed all branches of the military that conduct online influence campaigns to provide a full account of their operations by next month.
The call for review comes after revelations in an August report from social network analysis firm Graphika and the Stanford Internet Observatory, which uncovered a series of influence operations that aimed to “promote pro-Western narratives” in countries like Russia, China, and Afghanistan.
The report was based on data provided to the research organizations by Twitter and Meta, which removed the networks from their respective platforms in July and August, citing their policies on platform manipulation and coordinated inauthentic activity. Though researchers were not able to conclusively attribute the origin of the associated influence campaigns, the accounts “consistently advanced narratives promoting the interests of the United States and its allies” while linking to news sites that were backed by the US government and military.
According to the Post, the White House and officials within other federal agencies have become increasingly concerned about the use of clandestine online influence operations in the wake of the report, prompting the review.
Though the US military has long engaged in psychological operations, or “psyops,” the use of fabricated online personas and fake media outlets is both relatively recent and particularly controversial. The data provided by Twitter and Meta showed accounts using AI-generated faces for profile pictures and, in some cases, posing as representatives of fictitious independent media organizations.
The tactics are likely to draw unfavorable comparisons with campaigns run by entities like the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence services. Disinformation operations have been a cornerstone of Russia’s global power projection, used to push false and misleading political narratives in the US, Europe, Ukraine, and elsewhere.