‘Twitter Files’ document connection to government agencies via ‘belly button’

Twitter's logo, a bird, appears on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York City.
Twitter's logo appears on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York City. AP Photo/Richard Drew

‘Twitter Files’ document connection to government agencies via ‘belly button’

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A new release of internal Twitter correspondence details the relationship between the social media company and government agencies, which one agent compared to a belly button.

The latest drop of the Twitter Files, a series of releases provided by Elon Musk to allies detailing communications of the social media platform’s leadership, offers insights into the company’s relationship with the FBI. The company established regular communications and received requests from an assortment of agencies, according to emails released by journalist Matt Taibbi. These connections were better formed after the company clashed with the Global Engagement Center, a State Department-funded agency that regularly flagged Russian accounts in 2020 reports.

Twitter executives disputed the GEC’s reports, saying they were flawed, and pressed for direct communications with other government agencies. This eventually led to the FBI becoming a “Belly button to the [United States government]” for Twitter, as agent Elvis Chan described the relationship to former Twitter Head of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth.

TWITTER FILES: WHITE HOUSE PUSHED TWITTER TO CENSOR COVID-19 MISINFORMATION

The decision to turn the FBI into that primary connection was made as several other agencies and entities chose to send Twitter accounts and tweets to review related to Russia-related and COVID-19 misinformation.

Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-CA) office, for example, asked Twitter to suspend a Twitter account operated by RealClearInvestigations’s Paul Sperry.

Twitter declined to honor Schiff’s request, although Sperry was later suspended.

Twitter responded to most government agencies’ requests and removed accounts accordingly. Intelligence officials also warned Twitter about a book published by former Ukraine prosecutor Viktor Shokhin, who alleged “corruption by the U.S. government” in connection to President Joe Biden.

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The communications came years after Congress pressured Twitter for not doing enough to handle Russian misinformation, according to a second thread Taibbi released earlier in the day. Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee alleged that Twitter failed to do enough to suppress Russian-operated accounts on its platform based on reports from third-party organizations, leading the company to change its policies on the matter.

Previous versions of the Twitter Files detailed communications from the White House regarding COVID-19 misinformation, Twitter’s handling of Hunter Biden’s laptop, the blacklisting of certain conservative accounts, and the decision-making process relating to former President Donald Trump’s suspension.

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