The Federal Trade Commission is demanding Twitter identify all journalists involved in the release of the “Twitter Files,” among a wide-ranging list of demands made following Elon Musk’s takeover of the platform.
The FTC is also asking that Mr. Musk turn over his reasons for firing former FBI agent Jim Baker, any internal communications “relating to Elon Musk” and details of a new account subscription model, among a list of more than 350 specific demands. in 12 separate letters starting last November.
The commission also requested details of the company’s layoffs, citing concerns that the cuts could undermine the company’s ability to protect users’ private data.
The letters were revealed in a 113-page report released Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee and a separate subcommittee on the federal government’s weapons establishment, which alleges the FTC is abusing its authority and running a campaign to “harass Elon Musk’s Twitter.”
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 against Twitter suggest a partisan motivation for its actions,” the report said. “From these facts, a strong conclusion can be drawn that Twitter’s renewed focus on free speech is facing politically motivated attempts to derail Elon Musk’s goals. The FTC’s crackdown on Twitter likely boils down to one fact: Musk’s commitment to free speech in the digital town square, which he has described as “absolutist.”
FTC Chairman Linda Hahn has vowed to provide broad oversight of the company after Twitter agreed to a $150 million fine in 2022 to settle a federal privacy lawsuit that arose before Mr. Musk’s takeover.
The FTC said in November that the order accompanying the settlement gives the agency “new tools to enforce compliance.”
“Protecting consumer privacy is exactly what the FTC should be doing,” an FTC spokesman said in response to Tuesday’s report.
“It should come as no surprise that the commission’s career officers are conducting a thorough investigation into Twitter’s compliance with the consent order, which went into effect long before Mr. Musk acquired the company,” the spokesperson said.
The committees, both led by Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, released the report Tuesday ahead of a hearing on the weapons development committee that featured testimony from two journalists who released some of the company’s internal documents.
Matt Tybee and Michael Shellenberger, independent journalists who gained access to Mr. Musk’s vault, will testify before the panel at a second hearing scheduled for Thursday.
In December, Mr Taibbi revealed the extent to which the FBI was working with Twitter executives to moderate content on the platform.
That effort included weekly meetings with Twitter executives before the company suppressed a 2020 New York Post report about Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop.
During those meetings, which included representatives from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security, Twitter executives learned of rumors that Mr. Biden would be the target of a “hacking and leaking operation.”
The Post’s report, which appeared on October 14, 2020, sparked an avalanche of embarrassing emails, photos and text messages pulled from the laptop. It revealed details about Mr. Biden’s struggle with addiction and his highly lucrative foreign business dealings, which critics say smacked of influence peddling.
The emails also refuted President Biden’s claims that he never spoke to his son about foreign business deals.
The elder Mr. Biden’s campaign called the now-authenticated laptop Russian disinformation, citing a statement released by more than 50 former senior U.S. intelligence officials in an open letter to the public.
The steady trickle of internal documents also revealed Twitter’s left-leaning leanings, which led to censorship of conservative viewpoints and an unprecedented decision to ban then-President Donald Trump from the platform.
The Twitter files caused a firestorm on Capitol Hill.
Republicans on the House Oversight and Accountability Committee blamed former Twitter general counsel Vijay Gade, former deputy general counsel James Baker and former head of trust and safety Joel Roth at a hearing last month on their decision to withhold the New York Post story.
The leadership told lawmakers they made a mistake by censoring the laptop story, but they rejected accusations that they were ordered to do so by the federal government.
Mr Jordan seized on witnesses as they dismissed fears 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 executives of Facebook’s parent company, Meta Platforms; Google’s parent, Alphabet; Microsoft; an apple; and Amazon.com forward any communications between their companies and the federal government related to the moderation or suppression of content.