Now the investigation has angered House Republicans, who claim the agency is using its privacy scrutiny to thwart Musk’s absolutist vision of free speech on Twitter — a surprising example, they say, of liberal outreach.
Republicans fanned out these allegations during a combative hearing on Capitol Hill on Thursday presided over by House Judiciary Committee chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). aggressive campaign to harass Twitter” and flood the company with demands. The report claims the investigation is a result of “partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk.”
The political salvo challenges more than a decade of the FTC’s effort to improve privacy and security standards at Twitter, which came to the agency under a warrant of consent after a pair of security incidents in 2009. Republicans and Democrats are largely united in their concerns about Twitter’s handling of data security and privacy, but Thursday’s hearing sets the probe down as a political lightning rod.
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The hearing began with a bitter row between Jordan and Representative Stacey E. Plaskett, the top Democrat on the federal government’s House subcommittee on armaments. Plaskett said in her opening statement that the Republicans were promoting a false narrative. She said the FTC’s wide reach to Twitter shows the agency has “extremely serious concerns” about the company’s handling of consumer data.
“Something is going on between Republicans in Congress and Elon Musk,” she said. Chairman, Americans can see through this. Musk is helping you politically and you are doing everything you can to promote and protect him and to praise him for his work.”
Jordan responded by calling Plaskett’s statements “ridiculous”. Jordan and Plaskett argued over House Republicans granting Democrats access to full copies of the FTC letters. Plaskett said Jordan’s staff didn’t give her staff a chance to review them until 8 p.m. the night before the hearing.
The partisan attacks could be just the beginning of new challenges for Democratic Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, whose ambitious agenda to regulate the tech industry is expected to receive increased scrutiny and scrutiny as Republicans control the House of Representatives.
FTC spokesman Douglas Farrar declined to comment on how the agency planned to navigate more scrutiny from a Republican Congress. In a Twitter thread On Wednesday, he said FTC investigations are “simple and non-political.”
“The clearance order the FTC has with Twitter is not about Musk’s acquisition of the company or their content moderation policies,” he tweeted. “This isn’t about free speech, it’s about the FTC doing its job to protect Americans’ privacy.”
The attack on the FTC is the latest development in a broader effort by the GOP to show that the Democrats are improperly pressuring social media companies to advance their political goals.
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Former FTC officials argue that the Republicans’ report lacks substance or context about the agency’s work on Twitter, which is largely bipartisan.
“This is just b——-,” said David Vladeck, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC when Twitter was first placed under injunction.
House Republicans have not released full copies of the FTC’s letters to Twitter. The letters were not provided by the agency, said two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Russell Dye, a spokesman for Jordan, said they were supplied by a “concerned party”.
The Republicans’ report highlighted an FTC requirement that Twitter “identify all journalists and other members of the media to whom you have granted any form of access to the company’s internal communications.” The agency sent the request after the release of the Twitter Files, internal corporate communications that have fueled allegations that Twitter’s former leaders suppressed conservative views.
Musk instructed his subordinates to give former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss “full access to everything on Twitter” without any restrictions, according to a Signal post viewed by The Post and reported in December. The request raised concerns among Twitter executives, who warned it could violate the FTC settlement.
Two of the writers about whom the FTC demanded details – Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger – appeared at Thursday’s hearing as witnesses.
The request has also drawn opposition from the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to strengthen public interest journalism, who said the FTC “shouldn’t invade journalists’ privacy to protect the privacy of Twitter users.”
The FTC cited reports that the Twitter Files writers had “broad and extensive access to Twitter’s files” and “expanded unfiltered access to Twitter’s internal communications and systems,” according to a screenshot of the letter in the report from the FTC. Republicans.
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Weiss and Shellenberger did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Taibbi tweeted that reporters from Twitter Files “have neither requested nor been granted access to user personal data”.
The hearing signals growing divisions between Democrats and Republicans over the future of social media regulation.
“Basically, both Democrats and Republicans would like the agency to find out if there was a violation of the consent order or consumer commitments,” former Democratic FTC chairman Jon Leibowitz said in an interview. “Keep in mind that some of the most serious violations occurred under the leadership of Jack Dorsey.”
Faiz Siddiqui contributed to this report.