Elizabeth Warren, Democrat senators bemoan Elon Musk's 'personal wealth' in raising Twitter privacy concerns

Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey, Ron Wyden and Mazie Hirono demand Twitter answer their FTC compliance questions

Four Democratic senators have launched an attack against Twitter under Elon Musk’s new leadership, accusing the social media giant and its new CEO of potentially flouting federal privacy requirements post-overhaul. 

The letter from Democrat Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, both of Massachusetts, Ron Wyden, of Oregon, and Mazie Hirono, of Hawaii, centers most of its criticism on Musk – while noting Twitter "had a poor track record of protecting consumer privacy" years before Musk’s October takeover.

"We write regarding allegations that Twitter, Inc. has, since Mr. Musk purchased and became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company in October 2022, violated its consent decree with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and put consumer privacy and data security at risk," the letter, dated June 2 but first reported by CNN Monday, reads. "Last week, Twitter’s head of trust and safety, Ella Irwin, and Twitter’s head of brand safety and advertising quality, A.J. Brown, resigned. These departures, following a string of high-profile resignations from Twitter’s lead privacy, information security, and compliance officers, raise concerns about Twitter’s ability to comply with its legal obligations." 

"Regardless of his personal wealth, Mr. Musk is not exempt from the law, and neither is the company he purchased," the senators wrote. "Twitter must meet the requirements it agreed to under the 2011 and 2022 FTC agreements. If reports about Mr. Musk’s actions are correct, it appears that the company may not be doing so." 


Elon Musk waving

Elon Musk purchased Twitter in October 2022 for $44 billion. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images / Getty Images)

The quartet demanded Musk and Linda Yaccarino, designated chief executive officer, provide answers to a series of questions about Twitter’s compliance with the updated FTC consent decree by June 18. 

In November 2022, the letter bemoans how Musk fired multiple top executives; top security executives resigned; and Musk fired employees who had criticized him, let go of contractors, and laid off half of the workforce. On Nov. 9, the day before the deadline to submit a report to the FTC, the chief privacy officer, chief information security officer, and chief compliance officer all resigned.

The letter fails to note how Musk began clearing house while beginning to expose Twitter's past alleged entanglement with the U.S. government, revealing serious First Amendment and other concerns through the Twitter Files. 

"Internal messages obtained by the New York Times show that an employee suggested internal privacy reviews of Twitter’s products were not occurring as they should under the order. Reports also indicated that the launch of the updated Twitter Blue subscription service ‘disregarded the company’s normal privacy and security review,’" the letter says. 

In April, Musk confirmed that over 80% of the workforce had left Twitter since he became CEO.

A Twitter logo hangs outside the company's offices

Elon Musk said in May he found a new CEO for Twitter, or X Corp. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File / AP Newsroom)

"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,’" the letter alleges. "Mr. Musk’s behavior reveals an apparent indifference toward Twitter’s long-standing legal obligations, which did not disappear when Mr. Musk took over the company. One employee highlighted his problematic behavior, stating, ‘Elon has shown that his only priority with Twitter users is how to monetize them,’ and his personal lawyer Alex Spiro reportedly said, ‘Elon puts rockets into space – he’s not afraid of the FTC.’"


In 2011, long before Musk was at the helm, the FTC filed a complaint against Twitter, alleging that the company was "misleading consumers about the extent to which it protects the security, privacy, and confidentiality of nonpublic consumer information." The letter notes how hackers exploited Twitter’s vulnerabilities and gained unauthorized access to nonpublic tweets and user information and were able to reset passwords and send unauthorized tweets from accounts. Twitter entered into a consent decree with the FTC resolving the dispute without admission of guilt. 

The four Democrat senators went on to say that Twitter "continued to disregard consumer privacy" for years before Musk eventually purchased the company for $44 billion in October 2022. 

Elon Musk

Elon Musk has said he took over Twitter to defend free speech. (Michel Euler/Pool/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

In May 2022, the FTC filed a complaint alleging that Twitter violated the consent decree when it "misrepresented to users of its online communication service the extent to which it maintained and protected the security and privacy of their nonpublic contact information" from at least May 2013 to September 2019. 

Twitter reportedly took personal phone numbers and email addresses that users had provided for two-factor authentication and other security purposes, and used them for targeted advertising, the letter says. 


The FTC and Justice Department required Twitter to pay $150 million in fines in a settlement agreement. 

The parties also entered into an updated consent decree, with additional obligations for Twitter, including requirements to create and maintain a privacy and security program. 

Fox News Digital reached out to Twitter Communications for comment but did not hear back before publication.