Senators Pen Public Letter to Musk and Yaccarino Detailing Safety Concerns after High-Profile Twitter Resignations

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by Tolu Ajiboye · 3 min read
Senators Pen Public Letter to Musk and Yaccarino Detailing Safety Concerns after High-Profile Twitter Resignations
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According to the senators, Twitter is not able to keep up with safety requirements and meet concerns, and may be in breach of an agreement.

Democrat senators have expressed safety concerns to Twitter executives about its ability to comply with safety requirements. The senators contacted Twitter following two high-profile resignations from the social media giant last week.

Senators’ Concerns Detail Twitter’s Failure to Fulfill Privacy Commitments

Expressing their concerns in a letter addressed to owner Elon Musk and incoming CEO Linda Yaccarino, the senators worry that Twitter might no longer be equipped to meet its legal and compliance duties.

The senators reached out to the two Twitter execs following the resignations of AJ Brown, Twitter’s head of brand safety and advertising quality, and Ella Irwin, the head of trust and safety. Last Thursday, Irwin confirmed her resignation to Reuters but refused to provide a reason. She took over the position in June last year when her predecessor Yoel Roth resigned.

Signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii., the letter referenced a consent decree Twitter entered into in 2011. A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint accused Twitter of misleading the public about the privacy and security of information on its platform. Twitter then entered into the decree, which barred the company from misleading the public about confidentiality, privacy, and security for 20 years.

Additional Twitter Safety Concerns

The senators also added additional concerns surrounding user safety on Twitter. Last year, Twitter paid fines worth $150 million in a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FTC. The Commission filed a complaint in May accusing the microblogging giant of violating the consent decree “from at least May 2013 to September 2019.” According to the complaint, Twitter used phone numbers and email addresses submitted for security optimizations, such as two-factor authentication. It then used the information for targeted advertising.

Following the settlement, the FTC updated the consent decree with more requirements. For instance, Twitter must maintain a security and privacy program, and file a complaint notice within 2 weeks of a structural change in the company. In addition, Twitter must conduct confidentiality, privacy, and integrity assessments before launching any new products. It must also report all personal information breaches affecting 250 users or more.

Concerns about Hasty Decisions

The senators’ letter expressed further safety concerns about the staff exodus following Musk’s takeover last year. Shortly after taking over, Musk fired several staff and made changes the senators described as “hasty personnel and product decisions.” The letter also referenced Musk’s decision to fire top executives and several other staff that criticized him.

Furthermore, it seemed problematic that Twitter’s Chief Information Security Officer, Chief Compliance Officer, and Chief Privacy Officer all resigned the day before a report was due for submission at the FTC.

The senators ended their letter about safety concerns by warning Musk that neither he nor Twitter is exempt from the law “regardless of his personal wealth.” They then put forth four questions, each with several sub-questions regarding steps Twitter took to meet privacy requirements. According to the senators, Twitter and Yaccarinon must provide answers by June 18.

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