Following a warning shot from the FTC to Twitter yesterday, TechCrunch has obtained an internal email sent by Elon Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, to all remaining employees – in which he seeks to allay employee concerns claiming that they have no individual responsibility for complying with the requirements of the FTC’s consent decree.
We have reproduced below the full text of the email (sic) – which was sent by Spiro to Twitter staff at 5:21 p.m., November 10:
Elon – questions arise today regarding the consent decree in effect at the time you took over the business.
We have our first compliance check coming up with the ftc since taking office and we will deal with it.
The only party to the decree is Twitter, not the people who work at Twitter. It was Twitter itself (not individual employees) that left and therefore only Twitter the company could be responsible.
I understand there have been twitter employees who don’t even work on the ftc issue who have said they could be jailed if we weren’t in compliance – that’s just not how it works. It is the obligation of the company. It is a burden on the company. It is the responsibility of the company.
We spoke to the FTC today about our ongoing obligations and have a constructive ongoing dialogue.
We will of course remain in compliance with the Consent Decree and the Legal Department is handling this and will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
The 2011 consent decree required Twitter to establish and maintain a program to ensure and regularly report that its new features do not further distort “the extent to which it maintains and protects the security, privacy, confidentiality or integrity of any non-public consumer information”.
In a memo (first reported by The Verge) posted to Twitter’s internal slack and visible to all employees, an outgoing in-house attorney said that, in fact, individual engineers create “personal, professional and legal risks “, apparently at odds with what Spiro sent. in the email above.
On Thursday, key Twitter executives, including the company’s head of trust and safety, Yoel Roth, as well as its chief information security officer Lea Kissner, chief compliance officer Marianne Fogarty and chief of confidentiality Damien Kieran all abruptly left the company. The FTC noted that it is monitoring with “deep concern” the current situation on Twitter in light of the consent decree.
The FTC fined Twitter $150 million earlier this year after finding a rule violation related to user data provided for security purposes used for ad targeting.
We have contacted the FTC for clarification regarding the consent decree and individual employee liability and will update if we receive more information.