FTC’s Disturbing Obsession with Twitter Exposed: Harassment or Government Overreach?

During a House Judicial Committee oversight hearing on Thursday, Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) accused the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) of attempting to exert influence over an independent assessment of Twitter’s privacy practices and engaging in what he called “harassing” behavior towards Twitter.

The allegations came to light in a recent court filing titled “X CORP’S MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER & RELIEF FROM CONSENT ORDER.” According to the filing, the FTC allegedly pressured Ernst and Young (EY), the independent assessor, to produce a negative report about Twitter. This led EY officials to fear potential repercussions from the FTC if they withdrew from the assignment. The court filing also includes a statement from EY claiming that the FTC tried to manipulate the assessment’s outcome before it started.

In response to the motion, X Corp, the technology company owned by Elon Musk, argued that the investigation had become biased and had spiraled out of control. They requested the court to intervene and terminate the consent order, which they deemed no longer serving any appropriate purpose. Musk expressed concern over the situation in a tweet, and the House Judiciary GOP echoed his sentiment.

During the hearing, Jordan accused the FTC of engaging in “targeted harassment” of Twitter following Musk’s acquisition of the company. He claimed that the FTC issued over 350 information requests to Twitter, seeking all communications related to Musk since he took over the company. Jordan mentioned the company’s collaboration with journalists to expose government-driven censorship practices. He questioned FTC Chair Lina Khan about this alleged harassment and stated that it appeared to be more than just harassment but rather an obsession.

Khan defended the FTC’s actions by pointing out Twitter’s history of privacy policy lapses and unauthorized account takeovers. Jordan pressed further, asking if it was consistent with the First Amendment to demand the names of journalists a private company had communicated with. Khan emphasized her respect for journalists’ work but did not directly address the First Amendment concern.

The discussion also touched on a release by Musk known as the “Twitter files,” which contained internal documents exposing Twitter’s censorship activities. Khan expressed concern that this violated a consent decree prohibiting Twitter from sharing personal information with third parties.

Jordan confronted Khan about her knowledge of David Roque, the independent partner overseeing EY’s assessment of Twitter’s program. Khan claimed to be unfamiliar with the name, but Jordan reminded her that she had deposed him the previous month. According to Roque’s testimony, the FTC pressured EY to produce a negative report about Twitter, leading him to believe the assessment outcome was being influenced even before it had begun.

Jordan vehemently criticized the FTC’s behavior, declaring it outrageous and unacceptable, reminiscent of actions seen in banana republics rather than in the United States. He noted that the deposition had been filed in court that day.

Watch Jim Jordan challenge the FTC: