The Federal Trade Commission is requesting that Twitter identify all journalists who were involved in the release of the “Twitter Files” among a wide-ranging list of demands issued in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform.
The FTC is also requesting that Mr. Musk hand over his reasons for terminating former FBI official Jim Baker, any internal communication “relating to Elon Musk” and details behind the newly instated account subscription model among a list of more than 350 specific demands laid out in 12 separate letters dating back to November of last year.
The commission has also requested details behind the company’s layoffs, citing concerns that the downsizing could infringe on the company’s ability to protect users’ private data.
The letters were disclosed in a 113-page report Tuesday issued by the House Judiciary Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government alleging overreach on behalf of the FTC and a campaign to “harass Elon Musk’s Twitter.”
The lawmakers behind the report say the 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.”
“The timing, scope, and frequency of the FTC’s demands to Twitter suggest a partisan motivation to its action,” the report reads. “The strong inference from these facts is that Twitter’s rediscovered focus on free speech is being met with politically motivated attempts to thwart Elon Musk’s goals. The FTC’s harassment of Twitter is likely due to one fact: Musk’s self-described ‘absolutist’ commitment to free expression in the digital town square.”
FTC Chairwoman Linda Khan pledged expansive oversight of the company after Twitter agreed to a $150 million penalty in 2022 to settle a federal privacy suit arising before Mr. Musk’s takeover.
The FTC said in November that the order accompanying the settlement provided the agency with “new tools to ensure compliance.”
“Protecting consumer’s privacy is exactly what the FTC is supposed to do,” an FTC spokesperson said in response to Tuesday’s report.
“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,” the spokesperson said.
The committees, both led by Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, issued Tuesday’s report ahead of a Weaponization committee hearing featuring testimony from two journalists who published some of the company’s internal documents.
Matt Taibbi and Michael Shellenberger, independent journalists who were given access to Mr. Musk’s vault, will testify before the panel for its second hearing, scheduled for Thursday.
In December, Mr. Taibbi exposed the extent to which the FBI worked with Twitter company executives to moderate content on the platform.
Those efforts included weekly meetings with Twitter executives before the company suppressed the New York Post’s 2020 report on Hunter Biden’s now-infamous laptop computer.
During those meetings, which included officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, Twitter executives were cued to rumors that Mr. Biden would be the target of a “hack and leak operation.”
The Post’s report, which ran on Oct. 14, 2020, set off an avalanche of embarrassing emails, photos and text messages pulled from the laptop computer. It revealed details about Mr. Biden’s struggles with addiction and his hugely profitable foreign business dealings that critics say smack of influence peddling.
The emails also refuted President Biden’s claims that he never spoke with his son about overseas business deals.
The elder Mr. Biden’s campaign branded the now-authenticated laptop as Russian disinformation, citing a claim being peddled by more than 50 former U.S. senior intelligence officials in an open letter to the public.
The steady drip of internal documents has also revealed Twitter’s left-wing bent that led to the censorship of conservative viewpoints and the unprecedented decision to ban then-President Donald Trump from the platform.
The Twitter Files ignited a firestorm on Capitol Hill.
Republicans on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee grilled Twitter’s former chief legal officer Vijaya Gadde, former deputy general counsel James Baker and former head of trust and safety Yoel Roth in a hearing last month focused on their decision to suppress the New York Post story.
The executives told lawmakers that they made a mistake when they censored the laptop story, but they brushed off accusations that they were directed to do so by the federal government.
Mr. Jordan seized on the witnesses as they dismissed concerns that the government was involved. He noted that the FBI held weekly meetings with Twitter executives before the company suppressed The Post’s report.
Mr. Jordan later issued subpoenas demanding that the chief executive officers from Facebook parent, Meta Platforms; Google parent, Alphabet; Microsoft; Apple; and Amazon.com turn over any communication between their companies and the federal government relating to content moderation or suppression.
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