Twitter Says It Bans State-Media Ads, But Gets Paid to Spread US Government Messaging

Twitter says it bans ads from state-affiliated media but the U.S. government’s Voice of America’s VOA Farsi pays Twitter corporation huge sums to spread disinformation against Iran & other foreign adversaries, reports Ben Norton.

By Ben Norton
The Grayzone

Twitter has demonstrated a clear, consistent bias in favor of the U.S. government and its geopolitical interests. The social media giant has also repeatedly lied about its policies on state-backed media outlets.

Twitter unveiled a new feature on August 6 that labels government-affiliated media on the platform. Users immediately pointed out the social network’s double standards: Chinese and Russian state-backed media have been designated, but not state-backed media outlets funded by Western governments.


Twitter Support claimed it decided to start labeling government-affiliated accounts from the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: the U.S., UK, France, Russia, and China. Oddly, state-funded media outlets from the first three NATO countries have not been labeled.


The lies flow from there. When it announced this new policy, Twitter Support claimed, “For clarity: we don’t let state-affiliated media accounts advertise on Twitter.”

This is categorically false.

Twitter hosts a web page called the “Ads Transparency Center,” where it publicly discloses all of the paid advertisements, known as “sponsored tweets,” that the website puts into users’ feeds.

A search in the Ads Transparency Center for the official, verified Twitter account of the U.S. government’s Voice of America, and specifically its Persian-language arm VOA Farsi, shows that the state-affiliated media outlet had paid Twitter to publish dozens of ads just in the first week of August.

VOA Persian Twitter ads
Sponsored tweets from VOA Persian in the first week of August 2020

That means that a U.S. state-affiliated media outlet published more than 60 individual ads on Twitter in a mere seven days – the same week when Twitter reaffirmed its ban on ads from state-affiliated media outlets.

Many of these ads quoted speeches from President Donald Trump and Secretary of State and former CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Others spread fears about coronavirus in Iran, and called for removing the Iranian government.

VOA Persian Twitter ads Trump Pompeo
Sponsored tweets from VOA Persian featuring anti-Iran propaganda from Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo

Voice of America (VOA) is a U.S. government propaganda outlet. This is indisputable. Even the History Channel, in an article on the launching of Voice of America in 1947, acknowledged that the “VOA effort was an important part of America’s propaganda campaign against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.”

And of the state propaganda organs funded by the U.S. government, VOA Persian is the most extreme. It is a weapon of information warfare aimed directly at the Iranian government.

The former senior managing editor of VOA Persian described the outlet as “a mouthpiece of Trump — only Trump and nothing but Trump.” The former executive editor added that the U.S. government-funded network just publishes “blatant propaganda,” with “no objectivity or factuality.”

Twitter, however, apparently sees no problem with allowing this Washington propaganda organ to spit out constant disinformation – and the company profits handsomely from its anti-Iran ads.

U.S. Agency for Global Media & CIA’s Global Network

Western government-backed information warriors reacted to Twitter’s double standard on the labeling of state-affiliated media outlets with glee, insisting that Voice of America was somehow “independent” of the U.S. government which oversees and bankrolls it.

In reality, Voice of America falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM). This is a rebranding of the U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

USAGM states very clearly on its website that its first goal is to “Be consistent with the broad foreign policy objectives of the United States.” In other words, USAGM is a soft-power arm of the U.S. government, along with all of its constituent platforms, including Voice of America, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, and Radio Free Asia.

USAGM adds that some of its top broadcasting principles are, “Clear and effective presentation of the policies, including editorials, broadcast by the Voice of America, which present the views of the United States Government and responsible discussion and opinion on those policies,” as well as, “The capability to provide a surge capacity to support United States foreign policy objectives during crises abroad.”

Radio Free Europe and Radio Free Asia were created as CIA fronts to spread disinformation targeting the Soviet Union and communist China, in hopes of destabilizing and ultimately overthrowing their governments.

The New York Times acknowledged this in a 1977 report, referring to them as instruments in a “Worldwide Propaganda Network Built by the CIA.”

Journalist Yasha Levine has documented the CIA’s role in setting up these U.S. government propaganda organs, noting that Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty had originally even been named Radio Liberation from Bolshevism.

Twitter’s Work with Western Governments

The Grayzone has extensively documented Twitter’s censorship of accounts in countries Washington has targeted for regime change.

Thousands of people, including journalists, activists, and civilians who are unaffiliated with their governments, in Venezuela, Iran, Syria, Russia, China, and beyond have had their profiles suspended or restricted by the social media giant.

This is part of a larger context of Big Tech corporations silencing voices, and even entire media outlets, that are critical of U.S. foreign policy, under pressure by the U.S. government.

When Twitter first announced, in August 2019, that it would ban advertising from state-affiliated media outlets, The Grayzone noted that the social media corporation was working with hawkish organizations funded by the U.S. government and its European allies.

Among the so-called NGOs that Twitter chose to rely on to define “state-controlled media” was ironically Freedom House, a right-wing lobby group that is itself bankrolled by U.S. government grants, and which produces reports whitewashing Washington-backed dictatorships while demonizing foreign adversaries.

Twitter’s links to Western governments go even deeper. In 2019, Middle East Eye revealed that the top Twitter executive who edits Middle East-related content on the platform also works for the UK military’s psychological warfare unit.

This senior Twitter executive, Gordon MacMillan, serves in the British army’s 77th Brigade, which uses social media networks and the internet to wage what its officials openly call “information warfare.”

By allowing U.S. government propaganda organs to publish constant paid ads while hiring British psy-ops soldiers, Twitter has been effectively transformed into an arm of Western state media – but without the warning label.

Ben Norton is a journalist and writer. He is a reporter for The Grayzone, and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with Max Blumenthal. His website is, and he tweets at @BenjaminNorton.

This article is from The Grayzone.

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6 comments for “Twitter Says It Bans State-Media Ads, But Gets Paid to Spread US Government Messaging

  1. Wilbrod Madzura
    August 13, 2020 at 08:11

    No wonder fewer and fewer people are seeing the light of day, and forsaking the hypocrisy, murky underworld and idiocy of UK and US government sponsored media platforms. Folks are routinely bombarded by disinformation/misinformation carefully massaged, shamelessly peddled and given respectability by academic/practitioner experts, government officials, and such other outlets in the business of keeping citizens cowed down, if not fearful of unnamed/named enemies. The propaganda machine is meant to keep the boot on the populations’ brains and intuitions, their capacity to imagine alternatives, thus to engage as freely thinking and acting human beings.

  2. rosemerry
    August 12, 2020 at 15:23

    No surprise here. I notice on my computer that Russian or Chinese sites are noted as “supported by the government of Russia” or “supported by the government of the PRC”, while those of Australia, UK, Canada etc never use these pejorative descriptions. How people believe the “social media” news I cannot fathom.

  3. Vera Gottlieb
    August 12, 2020 at 11:00

    “Social Media”??? Seems to me it turns more ANTI SOCIAL every day.

  4. Randal Marlin
    August 12, 2020 at 09:20

    Likewise, have you ever noticed the bias in Google’s search engine.
    Try Googling “U.S. propaganda against North Korea.”
    Whenever I do this, I immediately get examples of North Korean propaganda against the U.S.

  5. Jeff Harrison
    August 12, 2020 at 01:13

    Surprised? Actually, I don’t understand why other countries allow US NGOs to operate in their countries.

  6. Lois Gagnon
    August 11, 2020 at 17:57

    The function of the US Government is to promote Western corporate interests and demonize any government that resists being absorbed into its imperial control. Twitter is an arm of empire as are all the giant tech companies and media giants. They’re not even trying to coverup what they’re about anymore. They believe they are invincible.

    Pride goeth before a fall. It’s coming and sooner than the masters of the universe think.

Comments are closed.