Now the investigation has drawn ire from House Republicans, who say the agency is using its privacy probe to thwart Musk’s absolutist view of free speech on Twitter – a startling example, they say, of liberal overtaking.
Republicans fanned the allegations ahead of a Thursday hearing on Capitol Hill led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), releasing an 18-page report that includes excerpts from FTC letters to Twitter, and accusing the FTC of “orchestrating an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter” and flooding the company with demands. The report claims the investigation is the result of “partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk.”
The political salvo is a challenge to more than a decade of efforts by the FTC to improve privacy and security standards on Twitter, which entered into a consent order with the agency following a pair of security incidents in 2009. Republicans and Democrats are largely united in their concerns about Twitter’s handling of security and data privacy, but Thursday’s hearing turns the investigation into a political lightning rod.
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Democrats plan to argue at the hearing that by defending Musk as the agency investigates his business, Jordan is doing the billionaire’s ‘dirty work’, according to a Democratic staffer, who spoke undercover anonymity to discuss sensitive issues.
The partisan attacks could be just the start of new challenges for Democratic Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan, whose ambitious tech industry regulatory agenda is set to come under scrutiny and reconsideration. scrutiny now that Republicans control the House of Representatives.
FTC spokesman Douglas Farrar declined to comment on how the agency planned to face further scrutiny from a Republican Congress. In a Twitter feed On Wednesday, he said the FTC’s investigations “are straightforward and apolitical.”
“The consent order the FTC has with Twitter does not relate to Musk’s acquisition of the company or their content moderation policies,” he tweeted. “This isn’t about free speech, this is about the FTC doing its job to protect the privacy of Americans.”
The attack on the FTC is the latest development in a broader GOP effort to show that Democrats are unduly 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 has been largely bipartisan.
“It’s just b——-,” David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, said when Twitter was placed under an order.
House Republicans have not released full copies of the FTC letters. The letters were not provided by the agency, according to two people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Russell Dye, a spokesman for Jordan, said they were provided by an “concerned party”.
Jordan said during a Tuesday interview on Fox News that he plans to focus on an FTC request that Twitter “identify all journalists and other members of the media to whom you have granted any type of access to internal communications of the society”. The agency sent the request after the Twitter Files were released, internal company communications that fueled accusations that former Twitter executives suppressed conservative views.
Musk instructed his subordinates to give former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss “full access to everything on Twitter” without any limits, according to a Signal message seen by The Post and reported in December. The request sparked concerns among Twitter staffers, who warned it could violate FTC regulations.
Two of the perpetrators the FTC has requested details about — Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger — will appear at Thursday’s hearing as witnesses.
Jordan said in the Fox News interview that the agency’s request posed “the most egregious threat to the First Amendment” he had ever seen. The request also provoked backlash from the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a non-profit organization that seeks to strengthen public interest journalism, who said the FTC “shouldn’t have to violate the privacy of journalists to protect the privacy of Twitter users.”
The FTC cited reports that Twitter Files editors had “broad and expanded access to Twitter files” and “extensive and unfiltered access to internal Twitter communication and systems,” according to a screenshot. of the letter in the Republicans report.
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Weiss and Shellenberger did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Taibbi tweeted that the Twitter Files reporters “did not request or receive access to private user data.”
The hearing points to growing divisions between Democrats and Republicans over the future of social media regulation.
“Bottom line: Democrats and Republicans should want the agency to determine whether there’s been a violation of the consent order or consumer covenants,” the former FTC Democratic Chairman said. Jon Leibowitz, in an interview. “Keep in mind that some of the most serious violations were committed under the leadership of Jack Dorsey.”
Faiz Siddiqui contributed to this report.