FTC accused of ‘orchestrating an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter’

Ahead of the next hearing on the weaponization of the federal government, an interim report has revealed the extent that President Joe Biden’s Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chair embarked on what appeared to be “a serious attack on the Constitution.”

Last convened on February 9, the House Judiciary Committee’s Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government led by Rep. Jim Jordon (R-Ohio) is slated to meet Thursday. On Tuesday, the subcommittee released an interim report that charged under FTC chair Lina Khan’s direction, the agency “is orchestrating an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter” as part of an attack on the freedom of speech.

According to the report, since Elon Musk’s takeover of the social media company on Oct. 27, 2022, the FTC has sent 12 letters to Twitter seeking internal communications, and over 350 additional requests were submitted between November 10, 2022, and January 18, 2023, alone.

“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,” the report stated.

Reacting to Dr. Jay Bhattacharya’s post that highlighted the FTC’ request to “identify all journalists” who had access to Twitter’s files wherein he wrote, “The Biden administration’s casual violation of the First Amendment should shock every journalist, even those not fond of @elonmusk,” the billionaire wrote, “This is a serious attack on the Constitution by a federal agency.”

Musk similarly replied to journalist Michael Shellenberger who called the FTC’s actions “an outrageous attack on the First Amendment” by stating, “A shameful case of weaponization of a government agency for political purposes and suppression of the truth!”

The report suggested, “There is no logical reason 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.”

However, the FTC appeared to be citing security concerns as their basis and made note of the $150 million settlement agreed to in May 2022, prior to Musk’s takeover, that pertained to a federal privacy suit after which Khan had promised to maintain oversight of Twitter.

“Protecting consumer’s privacy is exactly what the FTC is supposed to do,” a spokesperson for the agency said in response to the report as they contended layoffs at Twitter posed privacy risks. “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 subcommittee report stated: “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 demands did not occur in a vacuum. They appear to be the result of loud voices on the left–including elected officials–urging the federal government to intervene in Musk’s acquisition and management of the company. 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.”

“The FTC is also seeking to depose Mr. Musk in connection with the probe,” it noted.


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