Judicial Watch Sues Federal Trade Commission for Information on Controversial Targeting of Twitter Owner Elon Musk
MARCH 15, 2023
(Washington, DC) – Judicial Watch announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for records and communications maintained by its leadership, including Chairman Lina Khan, about Twitter and its owner Elon Musk (Judicial Watch Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission (1:23-cv-00692 (ABJ)).
Judicial Watch sued after the Federal Trade Commission failed to respond to a November 14, 2022, FOIA request for:
Records and communications maintained by Lina Khan, Chairperson, U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) including memoranda, reports, briefings, hand-written notes, email communications, email chains, email attachments and other form of records or communications exchanged regarding or referring to Mr. Elon Musk, CEO, Twitter, or the company Twitter with the below named individuals:
(a) Commissioner Noah Joshua Phillips
(b) Commissioner Christine S. Wilson
(c) Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter
(d) Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya
Federal Trade Commission document demands to Twitter obtained by the House Judiciary Committee show onerous requests for all documents about Elon Musk and documents concerning Twitter’s work with journalists to disclose to the public the details about the government’s and Twitter’s censorship of American citizens. A House report titled “The Weaponization of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC): An Agency’s Overreach to Harass Elon Musk’s Twitter” details:
Twitter allowed … journalists, as part of their reporting on government censorship by proxy, to review internal communications and correspondence between Twitter employees and federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
[T]he FTC’s first demand in its letter sent after the initial installment of the Twitter Files did not concern what private user information may have been at risk. Instead, the FTC demanded that Twitter “[i]dentify all journalists and other members of the media to whom” Twitter has granted access to since Musk bought the company. The FTC even named some of the specific journalists—“Bari Weiss, Matt Taibbi, Michael Shellenberger, [and] Abigail Shrier”—with whom Twitter has engaged on the Twitter Files. The FTC also demanded to know any “other members of the media to whom You have granted any type of access to the Company’s internal communications” for any reason whatsoever.
On November 10, the FTC sent two demand letters asking for voluminous information about Twitter’s personnel actions—terminations and resignations—and about the Twitter Blue service. To date, the FTC has submitted nearly 60 requests related to Twitter Blue. Some of the FTC’s demands about Twitter Blue—such as when the service was “first conceived”—appear to serve little purpose other than to pile on to the already burdensome requests. One such demand came just two days after Twitter reactivated President Trump’s account. In this letter, the FTC demanded nearly twenty additional categories of information about Twitter Blue.
“The Biden FTC is abusing power to retaliate against Elon Musk for supporting free speech on Twitter,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “And now, as this Judicial Watch federal FOIA lawsuit shows, the FTC is trying to cover up this attempt to silence and punish Musk.”
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