The Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government has released an interim staff report titled, “The Weaponization of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): An Agency’s Overreach to Harass Elon Musk’s Twitter.”
The Select Subcommittee is charged by the House of Representatives to investigate and report on “violations of the civil liberties of citizens of the United States.”
The report details recently obtained new, nonpublic information that reveals how the federal government weaponized its authority against Twitter in the wake of Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company.
Consisting of over a dozen FTC demand letters to Twitter that—in the span of less than three months following Musk’s acquisition—make more than 350 specific demands, this information shows how the FTC has been attempting to harass Twitter and pry into the company’s decisions on matters outside of the FTC’s mandate.
The timing, scope, and frequency of the FTC’s demands to Twitter suggest a partisan motivation to its action. When Musk took action to reorient Twitter around free speech, the FTC regularly followed soon thereafter with a new demand letter. The ostensible legal basis for the demand letters—including monitoring Twitter’s privacy and information security program under a revised consent decree between the company and the FTC—fails to provide adequate cover for the FTC’s action. A number of the FTC’s demands have little to no nexus to users’ privacy and information. For example, the FTC has demanded that Twitter provide, among other things:
- Information relating to journalists’ work protected by the First Amendment, including their work to expose abuses by Big Tech and the federal government;
- Every single internal communication “relating to Elon Musk,” by any Twitter personnel—including communications sent or received by Musk—not limited by subject matter, since the day Musk bought the company;
- Information about whether Twitter is “selling its office equipment”;
- All of the reasons why Twitter terminated former Twitter employee and FBI official Jim Baker;
- When Twitter “first conceived of the concept for Twitter Blue,” Twitter’s new $8/month verified account subscription; and
- Information disaggregated by “each department, division, and/or team,” regardless of whether the work done by these units had anything to do with privacy or information security.
Committee leadership argues that there “is no logical reason, for example, why the FTC needs to know the identities of journalists engaging with Twitter. 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.”