An executive at Twitter who heads its editorial campaigns across Europe, the Middle East and Africa serves in the British Army’s information warfare unit, the 77th Brigade, as a reserve officer.
Gordon MacMillan spends a few days a year on a contract acting as a consultant to the unit on issues relating to his specific expertise on social media and the Middle East, according to one person familiar with his arrangement.
In his day job, Mr MacMillan is in charge of the written and video campaigns promoting Twitter across the region. A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment on the news, first reported by Middle East Eye, but said that the social media site was an “open, neutral and rigorously independent platform”.
The spokesperson added that Twitter encouraged its staff “to pursue external interests in line with our commitment to healthy corporate social responsibility” and that a review had not found Mr MacMillan to be in breach of its policies.
Mr MacMillan declined to comment. A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defence said: “We employ specialist reserve personnel from a variety of civilian occupations in order to utilise the skills and experience of senior professionals.
“There is no relationship or agreement between 77th Brigade and Twitter, other than using it as a social media platform.”
The 77th Brigade was created in 2015, and focuses on the use of “non-lethal engagement and legitimate non-military levers”. It uses social media platforms including Twitter to research situations and opponents and wage information war. Its recruiting materials invite social media experts, journalists, influencers and content creatives to apply.
Gen Sir Nick Carter, chief of the defence staff, said in a 2018 speech that the unit sought “digital supermen, hyperconnected and hyper-empowered online individuals”. As of May 2018, it had 200 regular and 270 reserve personnel.
Mr MacMillan had previously worked as a journalist for advertising industry publications and was educated at Sandhurst and Cardiff and Bournemouth universities. His role with the 77th Brigade was first highlighted on his LinkedIn profile, which has since been edited to remove the reference.
Other 77th Brigade reservists work, according to LinkedIn, in communications, international development, and one as a partner at a Magic Circle law firm.
The unit takes its name from the Chindits, the British, Indian and Commonwealth force that fought the Japanese army far behind enemy lines in Burma during the second world war.
Its emblem is the Chinthe, a lion-like mythical Burmese beast that guards the entrances to Buddhist temples and pagodas.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited . All rights reserved. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.