In a recent development, a federal judge has declined to intervene in the ongoing dispute between Elon Musk, owner of X, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The dispute revolves around an investigation into X, formerly known as Twitter, which has garnered significant public attention due to concerns over user security and privacy. This decision by the judge implies that Musk may be compelled to cooperate with federal investigators.
US Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixon, in an 11-page order, has rejected X’s attempt to invalidate a longstanding privacy settlement with the FTC, which serves as the foundation for the ongoing investigation. Judge Hixon emphasized that the US District Court for the Northern District of California lacks the authority to grant X’s request to overturn the administrative order issued by the independent agency. Additionally, Hixon ruled that he could not prevent the FTC from attempting to depose Musk as part of the investigation. This ruling could indirectly impact a separate investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) related to Musk’s acquisition of Twitter.
The privacy settlement in question plays a central role in the US government’s examination of X. Concerns about whether the company has adhered to the 2011 order came to the forefront in 2022 when Twitter agreed to pay $150 million as part of an update to the settlement. This payment resolved fresh allegations that Twitter had misused personal information originally provided for account authentication for advertising purposes.
Subsequently, in the same year, a whistleblower disclosure by Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former security chief, once again raised doubts about Twitter’s compliance with the settlement. This disclosure triggered the current FTC investigation, which has gained momentum following Elon Musk’s takeover of the company. X has vehemently protested what it perceives as government overreach and harassment of Musk. In response, the FTC has asserted that it is diligently pursuing its mission to ensure that X is in compliance with its legal obligations.
As of now, X has not provided an immediate response to the judge’s decision.
Elon Musk’s battle with government oversight in the ongoing investigation into X continues to be a topic of significant interest. The judge’s recent ruling implies that Musk may have to cooperate with federal investigators, further intensifying the scrutiny on X and its compliance with privacy regulations.