FTC slammed for seeking names of ‘Twitter Files’ reporters

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The Federal Trade Commission’s demand that Twitter reveal the names of journalists who were granted access to company records is being assailed as “an outrageous attack on the First Amendment.”

Matt Taibbi, the former Rolling Stone journalist, blasted his “former colleagues in mainstream media” for failing to cover what is being billed as “insane overreach” by FTC Chair Lina Khan.

He wrote that the lack of media outrage was “particularly infuriating” given that none of the journalists who published the “Twitter Files” had “asked for nor received access to private user data” whereas “the Files themselves are full of instances of government agencies improperly asking for the same.”

“Which journalists a company or its executives talks to is not remotely the government’s business. This is an insane overreach,” according to Taibbi.

In a Twitter thread, Taibbi referred to mainstream reporters as “spineless, corrupt, amoral f–kwits.”

Author Michael Shellenberger, who was among those given access to Twitter Files, blasted the Biden administration for its “outrageous attack on the First Amendment.”

The FTC says Twitter is suspected of violating a 2022 consent decree in which it pledged to protect user privacy.REUTERS

Taibbi, Shellenberger, Bari Weiss, and other reporters partnered with new Twitter owner Elon Musk and began publishing Twitter Files — internal documents and communications which detailed how the social media giant’s previous management team sought to silence controversial voices and suppress news items such as The Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Supporters of Musk argue that the FTC’s probe smacks of political retribution.

Musk himself took aim at the FTC, calling it a “shameful case of weaponization of a government agency for political purposes and suppression of the truth!”

Defenders of the FTC, including journalist and antitrust expert Matt Stoller, note that it was “likely Twitter is violating” a 2022 consent decree.

Matt Taibbi, one of the journalists who was given access to the Twitter Files, blasted the Federal Trade Commission on Wednesday.WireImage

According to Stoller, “following the law compels this investigation.” 

“The FTC is seeing whether Twitter is violating its consent decree on privacy, which it has because it was lying to customers,” according to Stoller, who linked to a May 2022 announcement by the FTC that Twitter would pay a $150 million fine for violating the consent decree.

But experts told The Post that the consent decree doesn’t supersede the First Amendment.

Elon Musk took aim at the FTC for its “weaponization of a government agency” and a “serious attack on the Constitution.”Getty Images

“Consent decrees generally give the FTC broad latitude to request information from a company relating to its compliance with the consent decree and the underlying regulations and law,” Aaron Terr, director of public advocacy at the nonpartisan Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, told The Post.

“But the First Amendment still applies, and FTC demands, here or otherwise, can still violate it,” Terr said. 

“It would be unconstitutional and extremely inappropriate if the agency’s requests were motivated not by concerns about Twitter’s compliance with the consent decree but by displeasure with the Twitter Files disclosures or the journalists’ reporting.”

Paul D. Thacker, a journalist and blogger, sarcastically noted that it was “perfectly normal for [a] federal investigative body to demand the names of reporters interacting with a company.”

Twitter has come under scrutiny for its suppression of The Post’s reporting on the Hunter Biden laptop.

Thacker then wondered how the press would react if the shoe were on the other foot.

“The entire world would be panicking if the President was a Republican, but this is a Democratic administration, so the NY Times will ignore this,” Thacker tweeted.

The House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government issued a report Tuesday titled “The Weaponization of the Federal Trade Commission: An Agency’s Overreach to Harass Elon Musk’s Twitter.”

The subcommittee report accused the FTC of “orchestrating an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter and deluge it with demands about its personnel decisions in each of the company’s departments.”

Hunter Biden, son of President Biden, has confirmed that the laptop was authentic.REUTERS

“These demands have no basis in the FTC’s statutory mission and appear to be the result of partisan pressure to target Twitter and silence Musk,” according to the subcommittee report.

Taibbi and Shellenberger are scheduled to appear before the subcommittee Thursday.

“Twitter is required [by the consent decree] to disclose who they give your personal data to without your permission, including journalists,” Douglas Farrar, an FTC spokesperson, told The Post.

Since Musk assumed control of Twitter following his $44 billion acquisition in late October, Khan’s agency has sent 12 letters to Twitter and its attorneys demanding that they hand over internal communications about layoffs.

The FTC alleges that Twitter has violated a 2022 consent decree in which it pledged to protect user data.REUTERS

Musk has gutted the company’s workforce, which numbered some 7,500 employees before the mogul took over the company this past fall.

Musk’s takeover sparked concerns that the social media giant might fail to abide by a May 2022 settlement with the FTC in which the company agreed to improve its privacy practices. 

That settlement preceded the Musk takeover.

The FTC also wants company records and information about the launch of the revamped Twitter Blue subscription service, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Josh Kosman contributed reporting.

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