The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) may soon launch an investigation into Twitter and its new owner Elon Musk. A group of seven Democratic senators has reportedly asked the FTC to consider legal actions following the recent chaos on the social media platform.
“In recent weeks, Twitter’s new Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, has taken alarming steps that have undermined the integrity and safety of the platform, and announced new features despite clear warnings those changes would be abused for fraud, scams, and dangerous impersonation,” the senators wrote in the latter addressed to FTC Chair Lina Khan. Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Cory Booker of New Jersey are reportedly among the seven lawmakers who asked for an investigation.
The senators are referring to the botched rollout of the revamped Twitter Blue service. Shortly after taking control of the company, Musk decided to sell the coveted verification checkmark (blue tick) as part of Twitter Blue. Anyone could buy the checkmark without actually verifying their account. But little did Musk know that it would be a bad idea to rush through this plan. Chaos ensued, as seemingly-verified fake accounts flocked to the platform. Twitter withdrew the service couple of days later.
But amid all this, Twitter may have already breached a consent decree with the FTC. In May this year, the law enforcement agency ordered the company to do privacy reviews before making any changes and report the same to the FTC. But the launch of the revamped Twitter Blue service likely didn’t abide by this consent decree. As such, it is now facing a potential investigation. A Twitter lawyer had hinted at this a few days back. They said the company may end up paying fines of billions of dollars.
Lawmakers want the FTC to launch an investigation into Elon Musk and Twitter
Along with the potential breach of the FTC consent decree, lawmakers have also raised concerns about Elon Musk’s mass layoff of Twitter employees and the subsequent departure of several top executives. The company now has fewer people on every team, affecting its content moderation and security review practices. In their letter to the FTC, senators allege Twitter has put consumers “at risk” with the recent internal changes.
If now remains to be seen if the FTC follows up on the recommendations from the senators. The agency previously said that it is monitoring the developments at Twitter “with deep concern”. An FTC spokesperson said: “No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees. Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them.”
Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, who sits on several subcommittees that look into Musk’s companies, also recently told the multi-billionaire to fix his companies. “Fix your companies. Or Congress will,” the senator said.