The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has launched an investigation into Elon Musk’s mass layoffs at Twitter, seeking to obtain his internal communications, as part of its ongoing oversight into the social media giant’s privacy and cybersecurity practices. The FTC has been monitoring Twitter since the company agreed to a 2011 consent order regarding serious data security lapses. However, the agency’s concerns heightened following the turmoil that followed Musk’s takeover of the company on October 27, 2021.
Congressional Report Reveals FTC’s Investigation
The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee has published excerpts from the FTC’s letters as part of a report alleging that the agency was overreaching “to harass Elon Musk’s Twitter.” The House claimed that the requests amounted to a deluge of demands regarding personnel decisions in each of the company’s departments, every internal communication relating to Musk, and even Twitter’s interactions with journalists who Musk’s team allowed to see certain employee emails and messages.
The Twitter Files
The documents, dubbed “The Twitter Files,” were intended to demonstrate how the company made decisions to moderate content before Musk’s takeover. In response to the House report, the FTC stated that “protecting consumers’ privacy is exactly what the FTC is supposed to do. It should come as no surprise that career staff at the commission are conducting a rigorous investigation into Twitter’s compliance with a consent order that came into effect long before Mr. Musk purchased the company.”
Twitter’s 2011 Consent Order and Subsequent Penalties
Twitter had already paid a $150 million penalty in May 2021, about five months before Musk’s takeover, for violating the 2011 consent order. An updated version of the order established new procedures that required the company to implement an enhanced privacy-protection program, as well as bolster its information security. However, in November, a group of Democratic senators called those commitments into question and asked the FTC, led by Chair Lina Khan, a Democrat, to investigate any possible violations amid concerns that reports of Twitter’s disorder and drastically reduced staff under Musk posed serious security risks.
FTC’s Commitment to Protecting Consumer Privacy
The FTC has a mandate to protect consumer privacy, and the agency is expected to conduct thorough investigations into companies that are not in compliance with consent orders. The FTC’s investigation into Twitter is part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to ensure that businesses are taking adequate measures to protect user privacy and data security.