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posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 27, @03:31PM   Printer-friendly

Twitter security staff kept firm in compliance by disobeying Musk, FTC says:

Twitter employees prevented Elon Musk from violating the company's privacy settlement with the US government, according to Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan.

After Musk bought Twitter in late 2022, he gave Bari Weiss and other journalists access to company documents in the so-called "Twitter Files" incident. The access given to outside individuals raised concerns that Twitter (which is currently named X) violated a 2022 settlement with the FTC, which has requirements designed to prevent repeats of previous security failures.

Some of Twitter's top privacy and security executives also resigned shortly after Musk's purchase, citing concerns that Musk's rapid changes could cause violations of the settlement.

FTC staff deposed former Twitter employees and "learned that the access provided to the third-party individuals turned out to be more limited than the individuals' tweets and other public reporting had indicated," Khan wrote in a letter sent today to US Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Khan's letter said the access was limited because employees refused to comply with Musk's demands:

The deposition testimony revealed that in early December 2022, Elon Musk had reportedly directed staff to grant an outside third-party individual "full access to everything at Twitter... No limits at all." Consistent with Musk's direction, the individual was initially assigned a company laptop and internal account, with the intent that the third-party individual be given "elevated privileges" beyond what an average company employee might have.

However, based on a concern that such an arrangement would risk exposing nonpublic user information in potential violation of the FTC's Order, longtime information security employees at Twitter intervened and implemented safeguards to mitigate the risks. Ultimately the third-party individuals did not receive direct access to Twitter's systems, but instead worked with other company employees who accessed the systems on the individuals' behalf.

Jordan is chair of the House Judiciary Committee and has criticized the investigation, claiming that "the FTC harassed Twitter in the wake of Mr. Musk's acquisition." Khan's letter to Jordan today argues that the FTC investigation was justified.

"The FTC's investigation confirmed that staff was right to be concerned, given that Twitter's new CEO had directed employees to take actions that would have violated the FTC's Order," Khan wrote. "Once staff learned that the FTC's Order had worked to ensure that Twitter employees took appropriate measures to protect consumers' private information, compliance staff made no further inquiries to Twitter or anyone else concerning this issue."

Khan also wrote that deep staff cuts following the Musk acquisition, and resignations of Twitter's top privacy and compliance officials, meant that "there was no one left at the company responsible for interpreting and modifying data policies and practices to ensure Twitter was complying with the FTC's Order to safeguard Americans' personal data." The letter continued:


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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday February 28, @02:39PM (6 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday February 28, @02:39PM (#1346639) Journal

    1. What the government employees asked to be censored was photos of Hunter's private anatomy. Which is the sort of thing that any private citizen could also have reasonably asked these sites to be taken down and gotten it taken down.

    Except that private citizens would not be using government employees for that task, but doing it themselves or via private legal services.

    2. Government employees acting in both their professional capacity and as private citizens are freely allowed to ask nicely for anybody to do anything at all. All the law really has to say about that is what happens if the person or entity they ask say "no". These requests to the department of Twitter that handles such things is in roughly the same category, legally speaking, as the USDA recommending 4 servings of fruit a day.

    When it comes to censorship. No, they aren't allowed to ask nicely - because it isn't in their professional capacity by constitutional law. Government has plenty of carrot and stick to back "asking nicely" censorship and it's telling that the "asking nicely" was done covertly so that no one could investigate it.

    So if I'm understanding the Hunter Biden Laptop Scandal correctly, the story reads approximately this: 1. Hunter Biden for some reason gives the laptop to somebody to fix it.

    2. That guy creates a copy of all the data on that laptop, and then gives / sells the copy to somebody who will release it on the Internet, dick pics and all.

    3. That data, or at least some of that data, was released.

    4. The FBI, various police departments, members of Congress, and major media outlets who don't like anybody named Biden had full access to what was released, and not one of them has brought charges or publicly said "this is the specific crime Hunter should be charged with based on the information on this laptop".

    Now, assuming this story is 100% true and it is really Hunter's laptop, what exactly is the crime in this situation, and who committed it?

    You missed 5. That data has emails indicating that bribery and corruption was going on involving Hunter's father, now President Biden. That's the driver for the interest in the laptop. It would also explain why point 4 happened. For example, the emails show Hunter Biden's business associates talking about a participant known only as "Big Guy". New York Post had this [yahoo.com]:

    “The big guy” alias appears in an email obtained by the Post in October 2020, in which one of Hunter Biden’s business associates, James Gilliar, pitched the equity stakes for key players in a firm created for a joint venture with CEFC China Energy Co. in March 2017. It read, “10 held by H for the big guy?,” suggesting that this person would get 10 percent of the deal.

    Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski, who was brought in to structure the deal, publicly identified “the Big Guy” as Joe Biden when the emails came to light in the run up to the 2020 election.

    So soundsl like President Biden got 10% equity in a deal, held by his son. The obvious question then is why would anyone do that for the Bidens?

  • (Score: 5, Informative) by Thexalon on Wednesday February 28, @06:49PM (5 children)

    by Thexalon (636) on Wednesday February 28, @06:49PM (#1346686)

    When it comes to censorship. No, they aren't allowed to ask nicely - because it isn't in their professional capacity by constitutional law. Government has plenty of carrot and stick to back "asking nicely" censorship and it's telling that the "asking nicely" was done covertly so that no one could investigate it.

    Any government employee can ask any citizen or business to do absolutely anything, and that citizen or business is free to agree to do what was asked of them so long as it isn't illegal or breaks some private contract. (And even if it is illegal, if the citizen can argue entrapment.)

    It is perfectly legal for any news outlet or website to not post or show something, under the idea of "you're allowed to put up a sign in your yard, but you're not allowed to put that same sign on somebody else's billboard without their permission". And if you don't believe me, go through the terms of service of any social media outlets you have accounts on, and quote the section where the social media company has any legal or contractual obligation to post anything you type.

    As for the government asking media outlets to hide stories, that happens all the friggin' time. Especially in cases where classified information is involved - while it's legal for the media outlet to receive the information so long as they didn't solicit it, and legal for them to publish it, they usually have a conversation with the Pentagon and/or Three-Letter Agencies about it before publishing, ostensibly to prevent that publication from endangering troops and spies and such.

    I mean, you've successfully proven that I shouldn't believe what I read on Twitter/X, but I already knew that.

    --
    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
    • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday February 29, @02:36AM (4 children)

      by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 29, @02:36AM (#1346740) Journal

      Any government employee can ask any citizen or business to do absolutely anything, and that citizen or business is free to agree to do what was asked of them so long as it isn't illegal or breaks some private contract. (And even if it is illegal, if the citizen can argue entrapment.)

      So what did I write?

      because it isn't in their professional capacity by constitutional law.

      The TL;DR: it's illegal.

      It is perfectly legal for any news outlet or website to not post or show something, under the idea of "you're allowed to put up a sign in your yard, but you're not allowed to put that same sign on somebody else's billboard without their permission".

      Acting as proxy for government censorship is illegal. Having a government official ask you nicely to censor someone, then have that news outlet or whatever do the censorship, and then discretely receive whatever reward was promised or dodge whatever threat was made. Keep in mind that f it weren't for government interference, the person in question would have permission to put that sign on the media outlet/social media's billboard.

      As for the government asking media outlets to hide stories, that happens all the friggin' time. Especially in cases where classified information is involved - while it's legal for the media outlet to receive the information so long as they didn't solicit it, and legal for them to publish it, they usually have a conversation with the Pentagon and/or Three-Letter Agencies about it before publishing, ostensibly to prevent that publication from endangering troops and spies and such.

      Not the same. The media outlet is voluntarily (allegedly) choosing whether to regulate its own speech in your scenario, not someone else's. All parties are acting supposedly of their own free will.

      • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Thursday February 29, @12:01PM (3 children)

        by Thexalon (636) on Thursday February 29, @12:01PM (#1346781)

        ... because it isn't in their professional capacity by constitutional law

          The TL;DR: it's illegal.

        It doesn't take much to reduce that argument to absurdity:
        - If an on-duty cop asks a bartender for a glass of water, is that in his professional capacity, or because he's thirsty? If it's because he's thirsty, is that illegal?
        - If a National Forest Service ranger asks for your help in carrying an injured person out of the woods, is that illegal? After all, it's perfectly legal for you to refuse to help if you don't want to.
        - If a postal carrier asks a homeowner to use their bathroom when they're out doing their rounds, is that illegal, since using the bathroom isn't in the scope of their duties?

        By your logic, government officials holding press conferences is illegal, because they are implicitly asking the press to publish what they said.

        Acting as proxy for government censorship is illegal.

        Show me the law or constitutional clause that says that. And no, the First Amendment is not that law: The First Amendment says that the government can't censor you. It says nothing about what private businesses can and can't do, e.g. it is completely legal for a shopping mall to have protesters arrested and removed from the premises for trespassing. And it also explicitly does not require anybody to say anything: The extent of required speech in the USA is approximately "you are required to tell a police officer your name and sometimes your address, and there are oaths and affirmations you are required to say under specific circumstances like when joining the military." You are not required to say the Pledge of Allegiance. You are not required to say that you are loyal to the US government. And you're definitely not required to publish a news story because some other private citizen wants you to.

        Another way of looking at it: Posting something on Twitter is like writing a letter to the editor of your local paper (I know, how quaint). The local paper can legally do whatever they want with that letter and its contents - they can publish it, they can throw it in the trash, they can publish part of it. Likewise, Twitter can do whatever they want with your post, including take it down just because they feel like it.

        --
        The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Thursday February 29, @12:49PM (2 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Thursday February 29, @12:49PM (#1346788) Journal

          It doesn't take much to reduce that argument to absurdity:
          - If an on-duty cop asks a bartender for a glass of water, is that in his professional capacity, or because he's thirsty? If it's because he's thirsty, is that illegal?
          - If a National Forest Service ranger asks for your help in carrying an injured person out of the woods, is that illegal? After all, it's perfectly legal for you to refuse to help if you don't want to.
          - If a postal carrier asks a homeowner to use their bathroom when they're out doing their rounds, is that illegal, since using the bathroom isn't in the scope of their duties?

          None of those are relevant to the story (and none of them actually run afoul of my observations). Let's consider some serious examples instead:

          - If a cop asks a private citizen to search an office or residence (otherwise legal) because it would be illegal for the cop to do that themselves without a search warrant.
          - if a= cop asks a private business to refuse to allow someone to speak on the premises because it would be illegal for the cop to suppress the speech directly.
          - any act of a cop, directly or via a private citizen proxy, that harms a person's exercise of freedom and for which there is no legal justification (like in the act of committing a crime or interfering with a police officer in the performance of their duty)

          Keep in mind too that the cop may be offering a service or making a threat to get the private party to break the law in these cases too.

          I find it remarkable that you can't tell any difference between an official liaison of the federal government working with Twitter (and possibly other major social media sites) to suppress legal speech [newsweek.com], a clear violation of the First Amendment, and an on-duty police officer asking for a glass of water. In the latter case, whose rights are trampled? The bartender providing a trivial service that they would provide anyway as typical of their business - and which they can freely refuse? But maybe your speech is as worthless as a glass of water?

          • (Score: 2) by Thexalon on Friday March 01, @03:35AM (1 child)

            by Thexalon (636) on Friday March 01, @03:35AM (#1346895)

            - If a cop asks a private citizen to search an office or residence (otherwise legal) because it would be illegal for the cop to do that themselves without a search warrant.

            Assuming it's my own office or residence, the cop can ask, and I can either refuse or comply as I choose. Cops are also allowed to ask to search the premises themselves, and if you let them in, that's a legal search. The way you assert your Fourth Amendment rights are to not do the search yourself, nor let them in to do the search.

            - if a cop asks a private business to refuse to allow someone to speak on the premises because it would be illegal for the cop to suppress the speech directly.

            They can indeed ask for that, and sometimes do, e.g. telling the venue owner that the speaker creates a risk of a riot or something like that. The business owner is within their rights to tell the cop to go to hell to that request if they want and hold the event anyways, and the speaker that couldn't speak at that business can give that speech to whomever is in earshot in a public park.

            I find it remarkable that you can't tell any difference between an official liaison of the federal government working with Twitter (and possibly other major social media sites) to suppress legal speech, a clear violation of the First Amendment

            All the First Amendment guarantees is that you won't be arrested for saying or writing things that the government doesn't like. It does not and never has granted you the legal right to use anybody else's private property to spread your message, because the courts have generally seen legally required speech as at least as big of an imposition on your freedom as legally prohibited speech. Nor has it ever guaranteed you an audience of a particular size or location.

            Since Twitter is private property owned by Twitter, that means they get to decide what's posted on it. And "the government asked me not to allow this post" is a reason they are allowed to decide not to show a post. You don't like that? Fine. Your option is to publish it on Truth Social instead, or on your own website.

            The official liaison of the federal government to most forms of media is called the White House Press Office. They've been there for decades. And yes, sometimes they ask outlets to not publish things, and the people they ask to not publish can either publish anyways or not.

            --
            The only thing that stops a bad guy with a compiler is a good guy with a compiler.
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Friday March 01, @04:09AM

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 01, @04:09AM (#1346899) Journal

              Assuming it's my own office or residence, the cop can ask, and I can either refuse or comply as I choose. Cops are also allowed to ask to search the premises themselves, and if you let them in, that's a legal search. The way you assert your Fourth Amendment rights are to not do the search yourself, nor let them in to do the search.

              How about they ask the janitor or landlord to nose through the place without a search warrant? Both have legal reason to be there. I see a fundamental error here, assuming that police will only ask you directly to search your property. When they ask a secondary party that has access to part of your property or files, then that allows them to bypass the legal requirement for a warrant. And who knows what they offered as part of the deal.

              I find it remarkable that you can't tell any difference between an official liaison of the federal government working with Twitter (and possibly other major social media sites) to suppress legal speech, a clear violation of the First Amendment

              All the First Amendment guarantees is that you won't be arrested for saying or writing things that the government doesn't like. It does not and never has granted you the legal right to use anybody else's private property to spread your message, because the courts have generally seen legally required speech as at least as big of an imposition on your freedom as legally prohibited speech. Nor has it ever guaranteed you an audience of a particular size or location.

              No, it's far more broad than that - arresting someone is not the only way one's speech can be abridged per definition of the amendment, requiring a speech forum to shut down the speech by law would be another. And the Supreme Court has extended it further to any government restriction of speech, including state and local levels of government not merely by federal legislation. Here, the Twitter censorship is at the behest of the government liaison. That demonstrates that it's actually government censorship.

              Since Twitter is private property owned by Twitter, that means they get to decide what's posted on it. And "the government asked me not to allow this post" is a reason they are allowed to decide not to show a post. You don't like that? Fine. Your option is to publish it on Truth Social instead, or on your own website.

              It remains illegal for the government to "ask" that. Keep in mind that they can provide stick and carrot to enforce that "ask". A glaring example is favorable treatment concerning the settlement discussed in the story. The federal government has some leeway in how it decided Twitter's compliance with the settlement and how much scrutiny the company should undergo. An unmentioned legal alternative here is for government to never ask a social media company to deplatform someone for speech.