Technology

Senate Democrats ask FTC to investigate Twitter after ‘alarming steps’ by Musk

The Twitter application is seen on a digital device, April 25, 2022, in San Diego. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Senate Democrats urged the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Thursday to investigate Twitter over potential consumer protection violations after changes made to the platform in recent weeks under the helm of new CEO Elon Musk.

The senators said “alarming steps” taken under Musk’s control, including allowing users to pay for verification check marks and laying off key staff, undermined the integrity and safety of the platform and may have already violated the FTC’s consent decree for the company. 

“We fear that Mr. Musk’s reported changes to internal reviews and data security practices further put consumers at risk and could directly violate the requirements of the consent decree,” they wrote in a letter led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn). 

The senators noted that Twitter was “already on notice” before Musk completed his $44 billion acquisition in October, over accusations by whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko who alleged the company had inadequate security practices. 

“We urge the Commission to vigorously oversee its consent decree with Twitter and to bring enforcement actions against any breaches or business practices that are unfair or deceptive, including bringing civil penalties and imposing liability on individual Twitter executives where appropriate,” the senators added. 

The letter was also signed by Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). 

Spokespeople for Twitter and the FTC declined to comment. 

An FTC spokesperson previously said the agency is tracking “recent developments at Twitter with deep concern.” 

“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees,” the spokesperson said. 

One of the more consequential changes Musk made since taking charge of Twitter is allowing users to pay for blue check marks that were previously only given to companies and figures deemed “notable” in certain categories. Unlike the previous system, where users had to verify their identity through steps laid out by Twitter, the check marks given out under a $7.99 monthly subscription to Twitter Blue do not require users to verify their identity. 

The rollout last week wreaked havoc on Twitter, with users impersonating figures ranging from athletes to lawmakers, and was put on pause. On Wednesday, Musk said the rollout will begin again on Nov. 29 “to make sure that it is rock solid.”

Tags Elizabeth Warren Elon Musk FTC Twitter
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