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Enormous Pentagon leak puts Discord, Twitter, and Telegram in the spotlight

The news: Social media platforms Discord, Telegram, and Twitter are a focal point for one of the most significant classified document leaks in recent US history.

  • More than 50 US Secret and Top Secret classified documents were leaked to Discord in January and were only discovered by officials in April after the documents migrated to Telegram, per The Wall Street Journal.
  • As of Monday, the documents were still viewable on Twitter due to a lack of content moderation policies governing classified data, and they will likely continue to be available on Telegram because it operates outside the US, per CNN.

Geopolitical implications: The documents contain sensitive information about the Ukrainian military and might also contain details about conversations the US had with officials in Israel and South Korea pertaining to the war in Ukraine.

  • The exposure could warrant strategic changes on the front lines in Ukraine.
  • It could also undermine confidence in the US among world leaders who might question the internal handling of classified information that involves their nations’ interests.

Social media consequences: The incident is the latest blow to social media companies that already have all-time low public trust ratings.

  • Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s flippant reaction to the incident, along with the more general lack of policies regarding classified documents, will likely take social media scrutiny to a new level.
  • The federal government’s initial tasks will be identifying who’s responsible for the leak and containing the fallout. However, we might see an increased appetite for tech regulation.
  • We can expect more government surveillance of platforms, which will spur digital privacy concerns.
  • Social media companies could get a better handle on the issue by revamping policies and hiring more domestic employees for safety teams to promptly respond to abuses on their platforms.