Surging Concerns and Chaotic Environment

Since Musk acquired the company, he has made decisions that potentially violate a government order restricting privacy and security practices. These decisions include mass layoffs, rushed product launches, and the creation of an overall “chaotic environment.” Consequently, the company, now known as X Corp., filed a motion in July for a protective order to prevent Musk from testifying and to obtain relief from the 2022 consent order with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

FTC’s Response

In a filing submitted on behalf of the FTC by the U.S. Department of Justice, it is stated that X’s complaint revolves around the FTC asking “too many questions” after Musk’s acquisition. However, the FTC was compelled to ask questions due to the “sudden, radical changes at the company” following Musk’s takeover. The filing highlights that within weeks, half of Twitter’s employees were terminated or resigned, including key executives in privacy, data security, and compliance positions.

Site Outages and Data Access Issues

Concerningly, there were also instances of alarming site outages, product malfunctions, and problems with data access controls. These complications provided the FTC with a legitimate reason to seek information about the company’s compliance with the order.

FTC’s Long-standing Vigilance

The FTC has kept a close eye on Twitter since the company agreed to a consent order in 2011 that exposed significant data security flaws. Nevertheless, the agency’s concerns escalated following Elon Musk’s assumption of control on October 27. As part of their ongoing oversight of the social media company’s privacy and cybersecurity practices, the FTC announced an investigation into Musk’s extensive layoffs at Twitter and sought access to his internal communications.

Twitter’s $150 Million Penalty

In May 2022, Twitter faced a penalty of $150 million for violating a 2011 consent order. This penalty came just five months before Elon Musk’s takeover of the company. The violation resulted in an updated version of the consent order, which mandated Twitter to implement a stronger privacy-protection program and enhance its information security measures. However, Twitter is now seeking relief from the consent order, claiming that the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) investigation has gone beyond its intended scope.

The FTC’s recent filing, however, counters Twitter’s claim. The government agency states that it requested information to determine if user data was adequately protected during the transition from Twitter to X under Musk’s leadership. The FTC conducted investigations and received insights from five former X employees. Their testimonies shed light on a chaotic work environment at the company, raising concerns about whether Musk and other leaders were ensuring compliance with the consent order.

One notable testimony came from Andrew Sayler, Twitter’s former director of security engineering. Sayler expressed ongoing doubts about Musk’s commitment to the organization’s overall security and privacy. He highlighted Elon’s requests to grant access to third parties without following the regular vetting process. Sayler perceived this as a disregard for the sensitivity and security of such access.

Another example mentioned in the filing involved Musk’s insistence on launching the new Twitter Blue user verification service despite staffing limitations. Former employees revealed that Musk unsurprisingly pressed for an accelerated launch, even though the reduced workforce was struggling to maintain the service’s stability.

Representatives for X have not yet responded to requests for comment regarding these matters.

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