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Democrats warn Musk after Twitter safety execs leave

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, speaks during a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., May 16, 2023.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Recent key departures from Twitter could land the platform in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission if it can’t comply with an earlier agreement, Democratic senators warned company leaders Friday.

After news broke last week that both Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, and head of brand safety and advertising quality, A.J. Brown, had departed, four senators wrote in a letter to Twitter owner Elon Musk and new CEO Linda Yaccarino that they were concerned about Twitter’s ability to meet its legal obligations.

Twitter entered into a consent decree with the FTC finalized in 2011 that barred the company for 20 years from misleading consumers about its security and privacy protections and requiring a robust information security program subject to independent audits. Last year, Twitter reached a $150 million settlement with the FTC and Department of Justice for allegedly violating that agreement by using consumer information it purportedly collected for security reasons to target ads.

In the letter, Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Ed Markey, D-Mass., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, expressed concern about Twitter’s ability to comply with its earlier commitments in light of the recent departures.

“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,” the senators wrote. “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,'” citing a New York Times article describing Musk’s takeover.

The Democrats asked the Twitter leaders several questions about whether and how the company has complied with the security and privacy obligations in the FTC consent decree. The senators requested answers by June 18.

“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,” the senators wrote. “Regardless of his personal wealth, Mr. Musk is not exempt from the law, and neither is the company he purchased.”

Twitter responded to a request for comment with only an automated reply.

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