FTC demanded Musk communications, names of journalists receiving internal files in Twitter probe, House Republicans say

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has told Twitter to provide internal communications, including those regarding CEO Elon Musk, as well as the names of journalists the company has provided internal records to as part of the agency’s investigation into it, House Republicans said Tuesday.

The House Judiciary Committee and the select subcommittee probing the “Weaponization of the Federal Government” released an interim staff report on the FTC’s interactions with Twitter, accusing the agency of “harassment” of the tech firm.

The report shows that the FTC has sent more than a dozen letters to Twitter since Musk completed his acquisition in October. It states that the agency has demanded Twitter provide internal communications “relating to Elon Musk” from any Twitter employee, information about the platform’s Twitter Blue verification subscription service and the names of journalists who were granted access to Twitter records.

Musk has provided records to several journalists since he took over the company as part of the “Twitter Files,” which have purportedly shown ways that Twitter and government employees worked to limit or censor certain content on the platform.

An FTC spokesperson told The Hill in a statement that it is conducting the investigation to protect consumers’ privacy.

“Protecting consumers’ privacy is exactly what the FTC is supposed to do,” they said. “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.”

An FTC official said the agency regularly requests that companies provide information that they have given to third parties, like journalists, as they are not allowed to keep that information from the commission.

The Hill has reached out to Twitter for comment.

Conservatives say that the platform has historically censored conservative viewpoints online, showing a liberal-leaning bias, though there has been little statistical evidence to back such claims.

The FTC also requested the reasons why Twitter fired Jim Baker, its former general counsel, who was terminated in December. Musk said at the time that Baker was dismissed because of the possible role he played in the “suppression of information important to the public dialogue.”

The Republican-controlled subcommittee criticized the FTC for the extent of its requests, arguing that their “timing, scope and frequency” suggest it has a partisan motivation.

“There is no logical reason, for example, why the FTC needs to know the identities of journalists engaging with Twitter,” the report said. “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.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that Lina Khan, the chair of the FTC, declined to say in December what the specific aspects of its investigation were but said the agency was motivated to ensure it is “fully enforcing the orders that we have on the books.”

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