In context: Elon Musk’s time at Twitter has been filled with controversy, from mass layoffs to the Twitter Blue saga. His decisions have caught the interest of the Federal Trade Commission, which is demanding the company turn over internal communications and seeking to oust Twitter’s billionaire owner.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the FTC has sent 12 letters to Twitter and its lawyers since Musk took over on October 27. The core of the matter relates to the $150 million fine the FTC gave Twitter last year. year due to fraudulent advertising practices that used email addresses. and phone numbers submitted for account security purposes, such as two-factor authentication, for targeted ads. Part of that settlement includes a guarantee from Twitter to protect users’ privacy through a “comprehensive privacy and information security program.”
In November, the WSJ reported that Musk told Twitter employees that the company would do whatever it takes to comply with the letter and spirit of the FTC order.
A shameful case of arming a government agency for political purposes and suppressing the truth!
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 7, 2023
The FTC is concerned that Musk’s decision to fire more than half of Twitter’s staff, including privacy and security chiefs, may have an impact on the safety of users, violating the terms of the FTC settlement. “We are concerned that these staff reductions will affect Twitter’s ability to protect consumer information,” an agency official wrote to Twitter’s attorneys.
The FTC also asked Twitter to “identify all journalists” who were given access to the company’s records. Part of the Twitter settlement limits internal access to user data, so giving journalists access to Twitter’s internal systems would likely be a violation of the settlement. These incidents are Musk revealing the so-called “Twitter Files,” or internal information related to the company’s previous moderation process.
In addition, the FTC requested information about the launch of Twitter’s revamped subscription service Blue, which an employee said ignored the company’s normal privacy and security reviews. The FTC also wants Musk fired in connection with its investigation.
Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee have accused the FTC of overstepping its authority. “There is no logical reason, for example, why the FTC should know the identities of journalists associated with Twitter,” the Judiciary panel’s report read. “There is no logical reason why the FTC, based on user privacy, should analyze all of Twitter’s personnel decisions. And there is no logical reason why the FTC should require every single internal communication of Twitter about Elon Musk.”
Musk responded to the WSJ report in a tweet calling it “a disgraceful case of weaponizing a government agency for political purposes and suppressing the truth!”