Why Leaked Pentagon Documents Are Still Circulating on Social Media

Twitter and Discord have policies about what kind of content is allowed on their platforms, but these policies are not always enforced evenly.

Why Leaked Pentagon Documents Are Still Circulating on Social Media

Twitter and Discord, a social media platform, have policies that may have led them to remove leaked Pentagon documents. Biden administration officials claim that the documents revealed important information about U.S. spy gathering operations.

The gray areas and inconsistent enforcement of these rules make it difficult to know how or even if executives in these companies will decide to remove the rules.

Twitter still hosted tweets that contained classified documents from the Pentagon as of Saturday. Some of these tweets had been online since Wednesday. Elon Musk who purchased Twitter six months ago has not taken any action to stop the tweets containing classified documents.

Musk had responded sarcastically two days prior to the tweet. He wrote: 'Yeah you can delete everything from the internet -- it works perfectly, and does not draw attention to what you were trying hide at all.'

The Pentagon documents were likely circulated on Discord in March, a popular messaging platform for video game players. Discord servers, or chat groups on the platform, are not managed directly by the company. This makes it difficult to detect the spread of Pentagon documents.

Musk declined to respond to Discord's request for comment Saturday. It is unknown if either company, both of which are based in the United States have been ordered to remove the Pentagon materials.

Two former executives of The New York Times told The New York Times that Twitter might have removed material in the past under rules prohibiting the publication and dissemination of hacked materials. Twitter would either remove tweets that contained'real or synthetic hacked material' or put warning labels on them. Social media material from the Pentagon may have been manipulated.

Twitter rules were accompanied by caveats, as described in the policy document that was updated last in October 2020. These rules made exceptions to material used by news agencies as a basis for their reporting. The debates within social media companies over what they allow online are often similar to the discussions in traditional media about whether or not leaked material or hacking is of sufficient public interest to warrant publication.

On Saturday, it was unclear whether the Pentagon material had been hacked or deliberately leaked - the images that circulated appeared to be photos of documents. Documents could be in a gray zone that would, at least historically, have led compliance officers to discuss whether or not they were eligible for a takedown.

Twitter's hacked-material policy was used to stop the publication of an article from the New York Post in October 2020 that claimed the F.B.I. A computer purportedly belonging to Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s son Hunter Biden was seized. Later, Twitter's leaders including Jack Dorsey (then-CEO of Twitter) called the decision an error.

Before using anonymous sources, we need to consider the following. Does the source know the information? What is their motive for telling us this information? Has their past reliability been proven? Can we verify the information? The Times will use anonymous sources only as a final resort, even if these questions are answered. At least one editor and the reporter know the identity.

The former executives who spoke anonymously to The Times for fear of Mr. Musk's retribution said that Twitter received many reports from U.S. Government organizations about potential violations of their policies.

Since acquiring Twitter in October, Musk has reduced the number of groups that are responsible for moderating tweets. More than 75 percent (or 7,500) of Twitter's employees have either been fired or quit. Ella Irwin is Twitter's director of trust and security. She did not respond immediately to comments.

Twitter has blocked or removed content on the orders of government officials in India, and at Mr. Musk's request.

Twitter began to regulate the distribution and engagement of links pointing to Substack's newsletter platform this past week after the startup unveiled its Twitter-like service. Substack authors discovered on Friday that tweets with links to their Substack page could not be liked and retweeted.

During the pandemic of 2009, Discord grew in popularity beyond its video-game roots. By the end of 2021, Discord had over 150 million monthly active users.

Discord offers so-called servers, which are basically chat rooms where users can talk about their hobbies, message each other or participate in audio calls. Some servers have thousands of users, while others are just for friends.

Discord has thrived because of this arrangement, but it has also created problems with harmful content. It is largely up to those who run the servers to ensure that Discord users adhere to its policies and refrains from posting questionable or inappropriate material. Some of these individuals deputize server community members to enforce the rules.

Some of these groups are so private that they can easily avoid detection or moderators.

On far-right Discord servers, white nationalists in Charlottesville, Va. organized the "Unite the Right" rally. The company executives knew that white nationalists had been using the platform, but they did not remove it until after the Charlottesville rally.

Discord has since beefed-up its content moderation teams, and in an interview with 2021, the company's CEO, Jason Citron said that 15 percent his employees were on trust and safety team.

The company didn't find any Discord messages on the private server of the shooter that killed 10 people in an grocery store in Buffalo, last spring. The shooter made racist remarks in the messages and seemed to describe how he intended to carry out his attack. Discord announced that it was working with law-enforcement agencies to investigate the posts and were investigating them after the shooting.

Discord's most recent transparency report covering the last quarter of 2022 revealed that it had disabled over 150,000 accounts due to policy violations ranging from 'harassment' and 'bullying', to 'exploitative' and 'unsolicited' content. Discord said that the number of accounts disabled had decreased by 17 percent from the previous three months.