Twitter Drop Exposes FBI ‘Belly Button’ System

The latest drop of the “Twitter Files” was shared on the social platform on Tuesday giving more evidence of the cozy relationship between Big Tech and the U.S. government — and more specifically, the webs that were woven when Twitter execs didn’t feel so cozy.

Journalist Matt Taibbi tweeted the thread, which has been labeled “The FBI Belly Button.” This edition broke down the communication between the FBI, the State Department, Twitter, the media, and even other social media platforms.

Twitter’s former Director of Trust and Safety Yoel Roth was the Twitter lead in much of the partnership. The thread reveals how Roth along with other Twitter executives was essentially coerced into becoming the government’s censorship tool.

“In February 2020, as COVID broke out, the Global Engagement Center – a fledgling analytic/intelligence arms of the State Department – went to the media with a report called, ‘Russian Disinformation Apparatus Taking Advantage of Coronavirus Concerns’,” the thread began.

Taibbi explains that the Global Engagement Center (GEC) was chomping at the bit to flag any account that proposed suspicions on the origins of COVID and did so under the guise of defeating Russian disinformation.

Twitter execs, and Roth specifically, began to feel not-so-cozy when the FBI suggested including the GEC in the well-established FBI-Twitter partnership.

Roth pushed back on the idea citing his reasoning as a perception that unlike the DHS and FBI, which were “apolitical,” the GEC was “political.”

“After spending years rolling over for Democratic Party requests for ‘action’ on ‘Russia-linked’ accounts, Twitter was suddenly playing tough. Why? Because, as Roth put it, it would pose ‘major risks’ to bring the GEC in, ‘especially as the election heats up,’” Taibbi explained of an internal Twitter email from Roth.

FBI Agent Elvis Chan, who initiated the request to include the GEC, offered a solution after Roth pushed back on the idea.

“State/GEC, NSA, and CIA have expressed interest in being allowed on in listen mode only,” Chan proposed.

And from that, a new agreement was born that allowed other agencies to be looped into the industry calls and plans, but the FBI and DHS would be the “sole conduit.”

“’ We can give you everything we’re seeing from the FBI and USIC agencies,’ Chan explained, but the DHS agency CISA ‘will know what’s going on in each state.’ He went on to ask if industry could ‘rely on the FBI to be the belly button of the USG,’” Taibbi explained of the newly formed belly button system.

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