The House Judiciary Committee has learned that, following Elon Musk's takeover, the Federal Trade Commission sent at least 12 demand letters to Twitter for information, including details of the mass layoffs and the information accessed by the independent journalists that released the Twitter Files.
In one of the letters, the FTC, led by President Biden appointee Lina Khan, asked Twitter to “identify all journalists” that were granted access to the company files, aka Twitter Files. It asked the company to describe the “nature of access” given to each journalist and how giving that access is in compliance with the platform's “privacy and information security obligations.”
The agency also sought information regarding the Twitter Blue subscription service.
The FTC also wants to depose Musk in connection to its investigation into the company.
The committee obtained the letters as part of its investigation into the weaponization of federal agencies. The committee also planned to release a staff report about the FTC's investigation.
We obtained an early copy of that report for you here.
FTC's demand letters started after the mass layoffs, with the agency raising concerns about the ability of the company to comply with the $150 million settlement over privacy violations. In November, the FTC said that the order accompanying the settlement gave it “new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them…no CEO or company is above the law.”
In December, Musk confirmed that the company's workforce had been reduced from 8,000 to about 2,000 in a bid to stop the company from losing money, as it has done for years.
“We are concerned these staff reductions impact Twitter's ability to protect consumers' information,” FTC wrote to Twitter lawyers in November.
In other letters, the FTC asked Twitter to provide details about the layoffs and resignations. It also demanded details about the responsibilities of new executives, including who would oversee security and privacy issues.
One letter asked for an explanation for the termination of former general counsel at Twitter Jim Baker, who worked at the FBI before joining Twitter.
The agency also asked Twitter for all internal communications “related to Elon Musk” and those sent “at the direction of, or received by,” the new CEO.
In its report, the House Judiciary Committee's Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government accused the FTC of abusing its authority at the request of groups that were not happy about Musk's acquisition of Twitter.
“There is no logical reason, for example, why the FTC needs to know the identities of journalists engaging with Twitter,” the report said. “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.”
“Freedom of speech is among the most important rights guaranteed to every American. Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter last year served to revitalize this fundamental freedom in the digital age,” the report states.
“Now, in wake of this acquisition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is orchestrating an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter and deluge it with demands about its personnel decisions in each of the company's departments, every internal communication relating to Elon Musk, and even Twitter's interactions with journalists. These demands have no basis in the FTC's statutory mission and appear to be the result of partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk.”