A House subcommittee’s report on an alleged “harassment campaign against Twitter” has garnered the attention of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) who joined Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) in demanding answers from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Last week, the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government released a report documenting how, per the direction of FTC chair Lina Khan, excessive letters and requests were transmitted to Twitter and new owner Elon Musk with questionable demands. Among them were inquiries into the identities of journalists construed by the social media company CEO as “a serious attack on the Constitution by a federal agency.”
Writing to Khan, the congressmen expressed how the “report revealed how FTC harassed Twitter in wake of Mr. Musk’s acquisition…”
“The protection of Americans’ personal data is important, and the FTC has a role in ensuring that companies do not mislead consumers about how their information is handled,” they continued. “But the FTC’s legal authority does not include dictating entire swaths of corporate behavior under the guise of consent decree enforcement. Nor could it justify infringing on the First Amendment.”
As previously reported, the subcommittee had shown, “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 abuse by Big Tech and the federal government.”
FTC accused of ‘orchestrating an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter’https://t.co/6N13sBKUJH
— American Wire News (@americanwire_) March 8, 2023
The agency had defended its actions and a spokesperson said, “Protecting consumer’s 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,” furthered the spokesperson.
As they saw it, mass layoffs from Twitter presented a privacy risk due to the sensitive information that former employees had had access to, especially in light of a $150 million settlement agreed to in May 2022, prior to Musk’s takeover, related to private user information handed over to advertisers. The lawmakers did not directly challenge the need for certain FTC oversights but, instead, sought justification from the agency as to the questionable inquiries made through their own oversight power.
“In order for Congress to conduct its oversight responsibilities of the FTC, we ask that you provide the following information by no later than March 24, 2023,” they wrote before seeking all internal FTC communications pertaining to the investigation of Twitter from April 1, 2022, to present, the same between the FTC and third-parties, the office of the president, and any executive branch agency along with an “in writing” explanation for why they sought the identities of journalists granted access to Twitter files.
“Any agency potentially abusing its authority, including by misusing the consent decree process, warrants investigation and potential action from Congress. Congress will not tolerate any retaliation against whistleblowers,” they concluded, including Senate Commerce Committee chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Ind.) and House Judiciary Committee ranking member Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.)
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