“Shameful Case Of Weaponization”: Musk Responds To FTC Demands For Journalist Info
Update (2002ET): Elon Musk has responded to the Journal‘s report on the invasive FTC probe, as revealed by the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government.
“A shameful case of weaponization of a government agency for political purposes and suppression of the truth!” Musk tweeted Tuesday evening.
A shameful case of weaponization of a government agency for political purposes and suppression of the truth!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 7, 2023
Musk called the Biden administration’s ‘casual violation of the First Amendment’ (as Jay Bhattacharya put it), calling it a “serious attack on the Constitution by a federal agency.”
This is a serious attack on the Constitution by a federal agency.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 7, 2023
* * *
The Federal Trade Commission has demanded that Twitter hand over internal communications related to owner Elon Musk, including detailed information about mass layoffs he instituted shortly after his purchase of the social media giant.
And what did the FTC cite as justification? Concerns that staff reductions could compromise the company’s ability to protect users, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In 12 letters sent to Twitter and its lawyers since Mr. Musk’s Oct. 27 takeover, the FTC also asked the company to “identify all journalists” granted access to company records and to provide information about the launch of the revamped Twitter Blue subscription service, the documents show.
The FTC is also seeking to depose Mr. Musk in connection with the probe. -WSJ
“We are concerned these staff reductions impact Twitter’s ability to protect consumers’ information,” wrote an FTC official in a Nov. 10 letter to Twitter attorneys, shortly after the company’s initial wave of layoffs.
The demand letters were obtained by the GOP-led House Judiciary Committee which published limited excerpts in a Tuesday staff report concerning the ‘weaponization’ of federal agencies.
As recently as January, the FTC felt that Twitter was engaging in a “troubling pattern of ongoing delay” which raised “serious concerns about its compliance.”
In response to the Journal‘s questions, FTC spokesman Douglas Farrar said that “Protecting consumers’ privacy is exactly what the FTC is supposed to do,” adding that the agency is “conducting a rigorous investigation into Twitter’s compliance with a consent order that came into effect long before Mr. Musk purchased the company.”
The FTC inquiries have raised concerns over whether the company can comply with a $150 million settlement related to allegations of privacy violations which predated Musk’s purchase of the company.
According to the Judiciary Committee report, “There is no logical reason, for example, why the FTC needs to know the identities of journalists engaging with Twitter,” adding “There is no logical reason why the FTC, on the basis of user privacy, needs to analyze all of Twitter’s personnel decisions. And there is no logical reason why the FTC needs every single internal Twitter communication about Elon Musk.”
According to a November statement from Musk to Twitter employees, the company will follow both the letter and the spirit of the 2022 FTC settlement. In December, he announced that the company’s headcount had been reduced from roughly 8,000 employees to 2,000.
In letters ranging from Nov. 10 through Feb. 1, the FTC asked Twitter to quantify the number of layoffs and resignations, and requested an in-depth accounting of what new executives are responsible, and who would be overseeing privacy and security matters.
One letter pressed for an explanation of the departure of Jim Baker, the former Justice Department official who until December was a senior Twitter lawyer with responsibilities for ensuring compliance with the FTC order.
The FTC also asked for all internal Twitter communications “related to Elon Musk,” or sent “at the direction of, or received by” Mr. Musk.
Mr. Musk was scheduled to be deposed by the FTC on Feb. 3 but had a potential conflict related to court testimony in a securities lawsuit, according to a Jan. 24 FTC letter. The deposition hasn’t happened, said a person briefed on the matter. -WSJ
On Dec. 13, the FTC asked Twitter for information regarding journalists Musk has granted access to view internal communications as part of the so-called “Twitter Files” disclosures. The agency asked Twitter to describe the “nature of access granted each person,” and explain how allowing access “is consistent with your privacy and information security obligations under the Order.” They also asked if Twitter conducted background checks on the journalists, as well as whether they could access the personal messages of Twitter users.
Finally, as The Wall Street Journal points out, the Judiciary panel’s report accuses the FTC of overstepping its authority at the urging of progressive groups unhappy with Mr. Musk’s acquisition of the company.
Given the depth of the demands above, it is hard not to see their point.
Tue, 03/07/2023 – 19:45
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