Employees saved Musk from himself over Twitter Files

Unfettered access to non-public info would have violated FTC order

Longtime Twitter staffers saved Elon Musk from himself, according to a letter from the US Federal Trade Commission chair.

When Twitter was Twitter and not X, several journalists published documents regarding the company's activities before it was acquired by Musk, including the workings of the company's moderation and policy teams. The documents became known as the Twitter Files.

The FTC got involved not because of the content of the documents but because of the apparently unfettered access given to the journalists by the company's new boss, Elon Musk, and fears over data protection.

According to the letter [PDF] from FTC chair Lina Khan: "Elon Musk had reportedly directed staff to grant an outside third-party individual 'full access to everything at Twitter ... No limits at all'."

Twitter Files aside, Twitter holds a plethora of personal information, from customer contact details to direct messages. And it was a previous offender when it came to safeguarding personal information, and so the FTC was keeping a close eye on monitoring compliance with its orders to protest US citizen's data.

As such, the FTC began looking into Musk's boasts of access and found that, in actual fact, direct access had not been given despite Musk's orders demands.

"Based on a concern that such an arrangement would risk exposing non-public user information in potential violation of the FTC's Order, longtime information security employees at Twitter intervened and implemented safeguards to mitigate the risks."

What actually happened was that company employees accessed Twitter's systems on behalf of the third parties.

The staff were "right to be concerned," according to the letter, "given that Twitter's new CEO had directed employees to take actions that would have violated the FTC's Order."

Musk had indeed been saved from himself. Or at least from a potential hefty fine from the FTC.

The letter does not note the fate of the staffers who saved Musk's bacon. However, it does respond to a query regarding why the FTC was looking into Musk's takeover and the resignations that occurred shortly after he acquired the platform.

"Simply put, there was no one left at the company responsible for interpreting and modifying data policies and practices to ensure Twitter was complying with the FTC's Order to safeguard Americans' personal data."

Twitter attempted to get the FTC order eliminated but failed in court. "The public interest is served by Twitter continuing to abide by its legal commitments under the Order," said Khan in the letter, "which include Twitter's agreement not to lie to consumers, the requirement to maintain a comprehensive program to protect consumers' information, and the requirement to offer enhanced account security features in a non-deceptive manner." ®

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