America First Legal (AFL) has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for allegedly illegally concealing documents that could prove it engaged in "partisan retaliation against Elon Musk and Twitter for exposing the Biden Administration's collusive censorship."
In March 2023, the House Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government issued a staff report that concluded that the FTC harassed Twitter after Elon Musk bought it for $43 billion last fall.
The staff report found that the FTC “inappropriately stretched its regulatory power to harass Twitter,” misusing a revised consent decree “to justify its campaign of harassment” for political reasons.
Initially established in 2011 and later revised in 2022, the FTC's consent decree resolved charges that Twitter (now rebranded to X) failed to adequately safeguard user information.
The consent order also governs how Twitter stores and uses information about its users and includes provisions that require Twitter to comply with requests by the FTC to provide documents to assess compliance with an FTC-approved privacy and information security program.
But Twitter and the Weaponization Subcommittee have argued that the FTC has abused the consent decree to harass the social media company after Mr. Musk took it over.
Twitter, in July 2023, asked a federal court to end or modify the consent decree, arguing that the FTC's investigation "has spiraled out of control and become tainted by bias."
'Collusive Censorship'After the Weaponization Subcommittee staff report was released in March, AFL announced that it had launched an investigation into the FTC for alleged partisan retaliation for "exposing collusive censorship conducted by the Biden Administration and its deep state allies."
As part of that effort, AFL filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking records that would shed light on what it called the FTC's "egregious abuse of power."
In its lawsuit, AFL is asking the court to force the FTC to provide the records.
The FTC told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement that it has "no comment" on the AFL's lawsuit.
Gene Hamilton, AFL vice president and general counsel, vowed to keep fighting for the release of the records.
“Our woke, weaponized federal government will stop at nothing to harass and attempt to intimidate its perceived opponents. The American people have had enough. What they have done in the dark will be brought to the light,” Mr. Hamilton said in a statement.
'Invasive' DemandsSince Mr. Musk acquired Twitter (now rebranded to X), the FTC sent the company over a dozen demand letters, which include demands for both written narratives and various documents, per the staff report.
"In one 10-week stretch, the FTC averaged one new letter and 35 new requests per week," the report states. "In addition to their frequency, the breadth of many of these demands make them particularly—perhaps intentionally—burdensome."
For example, on Nov. 30, 2022, the FTC demanded that Twitter provide every internal Twitter communication "relating to Elon Musk," including all communications that Mr. Musk sent or received.
Calling the various demands as "invasive," the Weaponization Subcomittee's report concludes that the FTC had abused its authority to harass the company and Mr. Musk, who, after buying, Twitter started exposing a vast censorship machine under prior management, in collusion with federal agencies like the FBI.
The FBI has disputed this characterization, telling The Epoch Times via email that all it ever did was notify private sector entities about "foreign malign influence," but any action was taken independently by the companies.
Mr. Musk's acquisition of Twitter and his support for online free speech generated an "enormous" amount of backlash among left-wing activists and elected officials, according to the Weaponization Subcommittee's report.
Part of that backlash took the form of the FTC using the consent decree "as a vehicle to attempt to thwart Musk's efforts to reorient the company," the report states, adding that, "the FTC did just that."
"The FTC's harassment of Twitter is likely due to one fact: Musk's self-described 'absolutist' commitment to free expression in the digital town square," the report states.