Court filings have revealed new details about the FTC’s investigation into Elon Musk over his handling of privacy and security issues at X. In newly public court documents, the Department of Justice says Musk fostered a “chaotic environment” at Twitter, now known as X, that prevented officials from complying with their obligations to the FTC, Engadget reported.
According to Engadget, the FTC investigation stems from a 2022 settlement between FTC and Twitter over the company’s use of deceptive ad targeting under the leadership of Jack Dorsey. Prior to Musk’s takeover, the company paid a $150 million fine and signed on to an agreement to implement specific privacy and security measures. It was this additional data protection measures that apparently fell by the wayside once Musk took control, triggering new scrutiny from the regulator.
In March, the FTC began investigating the rushed rollout of Twitter Blue, which reportedly launched without the privacy and security review required under the FTC order, as well as Musk’s handling of the so-called “Twitter Files.”
CNN reported that Elon Musk should be forced to testify in an expansive US government probe of X, the company formerly known as Twitter, the US government said.
The government said mass layoffs and other decisions Musk made raised questions about X’s ability to comply with the law and to protect users’ privacy.
According to CNN, the US government’s attempt to compel Musk’s testimony is the latest turn in an investigation that predates Musk’s acquisition of X that has intensified due to Musk’s own actions, according to a court filing by the Justice Department on behalf of the Federal Trade Commission.
The court filing dated Monday cites depositions with multiple former X executives, including its former chief information security officer and former chief privacy officer, who testified that a barrage of layoffs and resignations following Musk’s $44 billion takeover may have hindered X from meeting its security obligations under a 2011 FTC consent agreement.
The Guardian reported that the US Department of Justice alleged in a legal filing on Tuesday that depositions from former employees at Twitter, now rebranded X, raised “serious questions” about whether the company was complying with an order imposed by the consumer and competition watchdog, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
“The information obtained revealed a chaotic environment at the company that raised serious questions about whether and how Musk and other leaders were ensuring X Corp’s compliance with the 2022 administrative order,” the filing said.
According to The Guardian, Twitter’s former director of security engineering, Andrew Sayler, testified that he had “ongoing questions about Elon’s commitment to the overall security and privacy of the organization” because he thought “the manner in which Elon was requesting us to grant access to third parties that had not undergone our regular vetting process … [had] some degree of disregard for the overall sensitivity and security at that level of access”.
In a further example from the filing, another employee said the Tesla CEO “insisted on launching the new Twitter Blue user verification services on an accelerated basis, despite staffing limitations.” Musk, according to the testimony, insisted that the service had to launch “right now” even though Twitter’s staffing was reduced so drastically that remaining employees were “struggling to keep up.”
Personally, I think that Elon Musk should have slowed down the changes he made on (then) Twitter (and later) X. I think this lawsuit could have been avoided if Elon Musk didn’t try to do a speed-run of scattered policies shortly after he purchased Twitter.