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Elon Musk vs the FTC
Twitter keeps violating laws over data privacy and security. That's not good for Elon Musk.
There was a largely silly subcommittee hearing on Thursday where Republican Jim Jordan had journalists Matt Taibbi and Michael Schellenberg testify about what happened in content moderation between Twitter and various intelligence agencies during the pandemic. The backstory is two trends on big tech hitting each other.
The first is how tech firms abused their power to engage in forms of censorship, or content moderation, depending on your point of view. And to that end, Taibbi and Schellenberg did a bunch of reporting based on access to Twitter’s internal operation files they got after Elon Musk bought the firm.
The second is the Federal Trade Commission’s oversight of big tech firms for privacy violations. Twitter, prior to Musk’s takeover, had been caught multiple times playing fast and loose with user data. So it signed a consent decree with the FTC in 2010 committing the firm to lots of internal work regarding data privacy and security. It then violated that decree in the 2010s, and so had to pay $150 million fine in 2022, and redouble its commitment to data privacy. When Musk bought the firm, he fired most of the people in charge of FTC compliance, and probably unwittingly gave user data access to third parties. Which is likely both illegal and Twitter’s third violation of the law. That’s the kind of thing that can incur a huge fine, as well as penalties against individuals in charge of decision-making. And guess who makes the decisions at Twitter? Elon Musk.
During the subcommittee hearing, which revolved around Hunter Biden’s laptop-style scandals, participants occasionally veered into the FTC. (Jordan released a silly mostly ignored report pretending there’s some connection, my org put out a rebuttal.) And no one seemed to understand why the FTC would police Twitter’s violation of the law, instead chalking it up to some sort of conspiracy to censor conservatives. (Taibbi, after attacking the FTC, didn’t seem to realize there had been a consent decree.)
Not that there aren’t conspiracies, but the FTC policing Twitter over privacy violations isn’t one of them. Anyway, Senator Ted Cruz ad Jordan are investigating the FTC. That’s not going to go anywhere, because there’s no scandal. But Musk is going after the FTC via Jordan for a reason - he realizes Twitter has a legal problem and may be on the hook for some serious penalties.