Journalist Matt Taibbi on Tuesday released a new edition of his Twitter Files called “Twitter and the FBI ‘Belly Button'” which discusses the role of the Global Engagement Center (GEC), a division of the US State Department, in relation to misinformation about COVID-19 on Twitter.
According to Taibbi, the GEC claimed in February 2020 that Russian disinformation was responsible for spreading false information about the pandemic on the social media platform.
Accounts were flagged as being “Russian personals and proxies,” even if they made claims that have since been supported by evidence, such as the suggestion that the coronavirus is an engineered bioweapon or that it originated from research at the Wuhan Institute.
The GEC’s actions were also mentioned in articles by Arthur Macmillan and Shaun Tandon forAFP and Betsy Woodruff Swan for POLITICO.
Yoel Roth, the Trust and Safety Chief at Twitter, is also mentioned in Taibbi’s thread.
Clemson researchers noted that Twitter had not attributed any disinformation to Russia in a while, to which Roth replied that this revelation “was revelatory of their motives.”
Roth also asked researchers to work with Twitter before going to the media with stories about foreign interference.
Twitter also attempted to limit the agencies that had access to Roth, according to the company’s Policy Director, Carlos Monje.
There were disagreements between Twitter, Google, and Facebook over the GEC’s involvement in moderating content.
Roth acknowledged that the 2020 presidential election, which was won by former and potentially future President Donald Trump, was approaching and that Twitter had a history of complying with requests from the Democratic Party to take action against “Russia-linked” accounts for political reasons.
However, in an email dated June 9, 2020, Roth stated, “Especially as the election heats up in the coming months, we need to be clear about what our role is and what it isn’t. We can’t have the GEC inserting themselves into the conversations we’ve had with DHS, FBI, ODNI, and others.”