Skip to content

Hirono, Colleagues Seek Answers from Twitter on FTC Compliance Following High Level Resignations

“Mr. Musk’s behavior reveals an apparent indifference towards Twitter’s longstanding legal obligations, which did not disappear when Mr. Musk took over the company.”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Ed Markey (D-MA) sent a letter to Twitter CEO Elon Musk and CEO-Designate Linda Yaccarino, requesting information regarding concerns that the company may have violated its consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and put consumer privacy and data security at risk. The letter comes days after Twitter’s head of Trust and Safety, Ella Irwin, and head of Brand Safety and Advertising Quality, A.J. Brown, announced their resignations.

“Regardless of his personal wealth, Mr. Musk is not exempt from the law, and neither is the company he purchased,” wrote the lawmakers. “Twitter must meet the requirements it agreed to under the 2011 and 2022 FTC agreements. If reports about Mr. Musk’s actions are correct, it appears that the company may not be doing so.”

Twitter has a history of disregarding consumer privacy. In 2011, the FTC filed a complaint against Twitter, accusing the company of “misleading consumers about the extent to which it protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information.” The company then entered into a consent decree with the FTC, barring the company for 20 years from misleading consumers regarding privacy, among other conditions. In May 2022, the FTC returned with another complaint alleging that the company had violated the existing agreement. 

After purchasing and becoming CEO of Twitter in October 2022, Mr. Musk made numerous hasty personnel and product decisions and in April of this year, confirmed that over 80 percent of the workforce had left Twitter since he became CEO. In November 2022, the day before the deadline to submit a report to the FTC, the Chief Privacy Officer, Chief Information Security Officer, and Chief Compliance Officer all resigned. Just last week, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, and head of Brand Safety and Advertising Quality, A.J. Brown resigned as well.

“These personnel changes, firsthand accounts from employees, and hasty launch of new products raise questions about whether Twitter is able to comply with its obligations under the FTC consent decree,” wrote the lawmakers. “In apparent dismissal of concerns regarding reducing his workforce, Mr. Musk’s team has said he is ‘used to going to court and paying penalties, and was not worried about the risks.’”

The May 2022 complaint from the FTC resulted in a new consent decree including a $150 million fine, and additional requirements for the company, such as filing a sworn compliance notice regarding changes in company structure such as sales, mergers, and change of ownership, creating and maintaining a privacy and security program, conducting an assessment of privacy, security, confidentiality, and integrity risks before implementing any new products, and reporting any incident if 250 or more users’ personal information is exposed.

The lawmakers are requesting information from Mr. Musk and Ms. Yaccarino on Twitter’s continued disregard for consumer safety no later than June 18, 2023. 

The full text of the letter is available here.