Social media giant Twitter has announced that it will work with Reuters and the Associated Press to censor supposed “misinformation” on the platform, while actively promoting news stories that they deem to be “credible.”
Both of these media outlets are reliable mouthpieces of Western governments, but Reuters takes the cozy relationship a step further.
During the first cold war, Reuters was funded by the British government to spread anti-Soviet propaganda and to disseminate misinformation that served UK foreign-policy interests in the Middle East and Latin America.
Today, Reuters still works closely with the British government. Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal revealed how the media company has participated in a covert UK Foreign Office information warfare program aimed at creating “attitudinal change” in Russian journalists, “weakening Russia,” and advancing NATO geopolitical goals.
It was, in fact, the publication of that factual report that led Twitter to place an unprecedented warning label on all tweets that linked to Blumenthal’s article, warning users that the materials proving Reuters’ collaboration with the British government “may have been obtained through hacking.”
Reuters’ shady activities don’t stop there. A top former official who was tasked with “the responsibility of advancing Thomson Reuters’ ability to meet the disparate needs of the U.S. Government,” Government Global Business Director Dawn Scalici, had previously served as a CIA agent for at least 33 years.
The AP is also close to Western governments, boasting a long history of echoing their dubious talking points. The newswire published numerous articles in the lead-up to the US invasion of Iraq falsely claiming that leader Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs). A decade before, it similarly ran fake news stories on supposed Kuwaiti babies being removed from incubators by Iraqi soldiers.
This May, the AP fired its reporter Emily Wilder over her tweets criticizing Israel and her past student activism in support of Palestinian rights.
Twitter’s partnership with these thoroughly compromised institutions is part of a wider trend in which Silicon Valley tech companies align with Western governments to crack down on independent media and alternative sources of information.
Twitter’s top executive responsible for curating Middle East-related content on the platform simultaneously works with the British Army’s psychological warfare unit, the 77th Brigade, which specializes in information warfare, as Middle East Eye first revealed.
The supposed threat of “disinformation” or “misinformation” has become a key pretext for censoring independent news outlets. Hawkish, government-funded think tanks in Washington have seized the talking point to justify de-platforming and silencing voices that challenge Western corporate and foreign-policy interests.
Under FBI orders, social media corporations have removed pages run by alternative media outlets that the US Department of Justice accused, without any evidence, of being foreign state-backed disinformation. The US government has even gone as far as unilaterally seizing their web domain names.
As The Grayzone reported, Twitter partnered with right-wing lobby groups funded by the US and European governments to censor foreign media outlets. US government propaganda organs like CIA-created Voice of America also pay Twitter to spread disinformation against Washington’s adversaries.
Google (which owns YouTube), Facebook (which owns Instagram), and Twitter have collaborated with Western governments to censor accounts run by citizen journalists in Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Russia, China, and other countries targeted by Washington for regime change and destabilization.
The transparent hypocrisy of Silicon Valley corporations teaming up with compromised media outlets to censor independent voices was clearly demonstrated when Facebook brought on the neoconservative website The Weekly Standard to serve as a “fact-checker.”
Founded by pro-war lobbyist Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard was branded the “neocon bible” for publishing fake news to sell the Iraq War and advance maximalist US foreign-policy goals. (Another unaccountable Big Tech conglomerate, Wikipedia and its corporate-backed Wikimedia Foundation, lists The Weekly Standard as a “reliable” source on par with top newspapers, while allowing a coterie of politically motivated editors to blacklist The Grayzone.)
With the backing of increasingly authoritarian Western governments, these Big Tech institutions have waged a systematic war on freedom of press and speech, censoring alternative viewpoints – especially when they challenge Washington’s bipartisan foreign-policy consensus.
On August 2, Twitter announced that it “is collaborating with The Associated Press (AP) and Reuters to expand our efforts to identify and elevate credible information.”
The Silicon Valley corporation explained that it has a “Curation team” that “sources and elevates relevant context from reliable sources” to “add reliable context to conversations” and “debunk misinformation.”
The Big Tech giant admitted that it works with large corporate media conglomerates to tweak its algorithm to prevent certain talking points from going viral.
What Twitter did not mention in its press release is that Reuters has a history of receiving direct funding from the United Kingdom to spread propaganda. Reuters itself admitted this fact.
In January 2020, the media outlet published a report acknowledging, “The British government secretly funded Reuters in the 1960s and 1970s at the behest of an anti-Soviet propaganda unit linked to British intelligence and concealed the funding by using the BBC to make the payments, declassified government documents show.”
“The money was used to expand Reuters coverage of the Middle East and Latin America and hidden by increased news subscription payments to Reuters from the BBC,” the company wrote.
Reuters received money from the Information Research Department (IRD), which it described as a “British anti-Soviet propaganda unit with close ties to British intelligence.”
An internal document shows London knew it was getting its money’s worth: “HMG’s [Her Majesty’s Government’s] interests should be well served by the new arrangement,” it said, adding that Reuters “could and would provide” what London wanted.
And this is not Reuters’ only link to Western spy agencies. Reuters also has close ties to the CIA.
From 2015 to 2018, Reuters employed longtime CIA agent Dawn Scalici as “the company’s first Government Global Business Director.”
Reuters said Scalici was “charged with the responsibility of advancing Thomson Reuters’ ability to meet the disparate needs of the U.S. Government,” adding that “she develops strategic relationships with government sector constituents and key decision-makers, develops campaigns to promote Thomson Reuters’ business growth, and works with the company’s senior executives to determine relevant strategic goals and plans.”
The media outlet continued: “Prior to joining Thomson Reuters, Ms. Scalici served 33 years with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In her last federal assignment, she served as the National Intelligence Manager for the Western Hemisphere within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). In this role, she was responsible for overseeing national intelligence for an area of responsibility spanning from the Arctic to the tip of South America, including the US Homeland.”
In 2019, Scalici moved on to CIA contractor McKinsey & Company, where she currently serves as “Head of Diligence.”
When it announced its formal partnership with Reuters and the AP, Twitter listed a series of tools that it has in its information curation arsenal. One of these is the use of “labels” to tag content it dubs “misinformation” or claims needs “informative context.”
Ironically, the world saw exactly how this new form of soft-censorship-by-label works when The Grayzone reported on Reuters’ secret work with the British government.
In February 2021, The Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal published an investigation titled “Reuters, BBC, and Bellingcat participated in covert UK Foreign Office-funded programs to ‘weaken Russia,’ leaked docs reveal.”
Leaked internal documents from the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office, published by a group calling itself Anonymous, showed how Reuters and the other media outlets are instruments in a British information warfare operation explicitly aimed to “weaken the Russian State’s influence.”
The documents revealed that the Thomson Reuters Foundation “was in constant communication with the British Embassy in Moscow, to assess levels of risk, including reputational risk to the embassy.”
As part of its agreement with London, Reuters helped to create and manage a network of anti-government reporters and media activists inside Russia. The program sought to create “attitudinal change in the participants,” while also promoting a “positive impact” on their “perception of the UK.”
In response to The Grayzone’s factual reporting, Twitter decided for the first time ever to put a warning label on all tweets that link to Blumenthal’s article, claiming “These materials may have been obtained through hacking.”
The censorial warning label triggered a mini-scandal on Twitter, and inadvertently transformed into a meme. Hundreds of users have posted the article with unrelated images, comically labeling them potentially hacked materials.
Twitter’s burgeoning relationship with the subjects of the Grayzone investigation it soft censored, however, is no laughing matter.
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