When we last gave an update, Twitter was in the midst of an upper management collapse. Chief privacy officer Damien Kieran, chief information security officer Lea Kissner, and chief compliance officer Marianne Fogarty turned in their resignations last Thursday morning, on their way out delivering a blistering in-house warning to Twitter's remaining staff informing them that Musk's actions were putting "a huge amount of personal, professional and legal risk" on remaining company engineers.
The resignations were in the wake of a Musk-ordered and hasty rollout of a pay-to-play "Twitter Blue" plan that would, among other perks, allow new accounts the same "checkmark" status as previously verified, high-profile accounts. This immediately led to widespread cases of impersonation and attempted fraud, as all rational observers warned it would—but Musk immediately followed up by removing "verified" status completely, making it difficult if not impossible to tell the impersonation accounts from the real ones.
The problem, and the almost certain reason those particular top Twitter officers hastily resigned their posts, is that Twitter is currently constrained by a Federal Trade Commission consent agreement after Twitter was discovered to be badly violating user privacy.
A Tech-dirt post from last Thursday spells out the stakes. There's little to no chance Musk's ordered changes comply with the consent decree that requires Twitter to comply with strict FTC oversight rules when rolling out new or changed product features; we can gather from the resignations of the three executives most responsible for making sure Twitter does comply that they themselves think Twitter is in Deep Deep Trouble here.
And the FTC, unlike more flaccid federal oversight agencies, has teeth. If the FTC were to find that Twitter employees intentionally skirted the consent agreement, multi-billion dollar fines could be levied against the company—and there could be prison time involved for executives who made it happen. In short order, then, Elon Musk has found a way to lose even more than his original $44 billion investment.
Now? New Twitter Blue memberships have, as of now, been temporarily suspended. There's no word on when they'll be back. That could be a bit of damage control, after the FTC let it be known that they were monitoring the situation. Musk, however, has been continuing to publicly mock those who point out the consumer dangers inherent in Musk's apparent plan to monetize identity theft.
The targets for his mockery include not just the media and random celebrities who have caught his ire, but sitting U.S. senators.
Sen. Ed Markey was not, and this may be an understatement, impressed with Musk's trolling.
Aside from the questionable wisdom of publicly mocking anyone concerned that your product's new direction consists in large part of, again, monetizing opportunities for market manipulations, phishing, and identity theft, Musk's trolling continues to signal apathy, at best, in complying with consumer protections. The FTC will certainly be able to take dozens of Musk tweets to show that the corporate culture of Twitter is, now, contemptuous of the privacy concerns that stem from the company's new direction.
Musk appears to be making a terrific case for new FTC fines that make his new $1 billion per year in corporate interest payments look piddling in comparison. Not great!
Also not great: The infrastructure that Musk so cavalierly gutted, long before he had time to learn what any of it did.
Ah, an infrastructure problem at Twitter. Well, at least Musk's team is, uh, on top of things.
Could Elon Musk kill off Twitter—that is, make it functionally unusable—in only a few months?
As astonishing as the thought is, he's sure doing all the right things to make it happen.
Holy crap, what an amazing week! Where do we even begin this week's episode of The Downballot? Well, we know exactly where: abortion. Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard recap Tuesday's extraordinary results, starting with a clear-eyed examination of the issue that animated Democrats as never before—and that pundits got so badly wrong. They also discuss candidate quality (still really important!), Democratic meddling in GOP primaries (good for democracy, actually), and "soft" Biden disapprovers (lots of them voted for Democrats).
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