Following a warning from the FTC on Twitter yesterday, TechCrunch obtained an internal email sent by Elon Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, to all remaining employees — in which he seeks to assuage employees’ concerns by arguing that they are not individually responsible for complying with the requirements of the FTC Consent Decree.
We reproduce the full text of the email (sic) below — which was sent by Spiro to the Twitter staff at 17:21 on November 10:
Elon – questions have arisen today about the consent decree that was in place when you took over the company.
We have the first upcoming ftc compliance audit since we took over and we will handle it.
The only party to the decree is Twitter – not people who work at Twitter. It is Twitter itself (not individual employees) that is a party and therefore only Twitter the company can be held liable.
I understand there have been twitter employees who don’t even work on the ftc issue commenting that they could go to jail if we didn’t comply – that just doesn’t work. It is an obligation of the company. It is the responsibility of the company. It is the responsibility of the company.
We spoke to the FTC today about our ongoing obligations and are having a constructive ongoing dialogue.
We will of course remain in compliance with the consent decree and the legal department is handling it and happy to answer any questions
The 2011 consent decree required Twitter to establish and maintain a program to ensure and regularly report that its new features do not further undermine “the extent to which it maintains and protects the security, privacy, confidentiality or integrity of any non-public consumer information’.
In a note (first reported by The lip) posted on Twitter’s internal slack and visible to all employees, a departing in-house attorney said that in reality, individual engineers pose “personal, professional and legal risk,” seemingly contradicting what Spiro sent in the email above.
On Thursday, key Twitter executives, including the company’s Chief Trust and Security Officer Yoel Roth, as well as Chief Information Security Officer Lea Kissner, Chief Compliance Officer Marianne Fogarty and Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran, abruptly left the company. The FTC noted that it is monitoring with “deep concern” the ongoing situation at Twitter in light of the consent decree.
The FTC fined Twitter $150 million earlier this year after it found a settlement violation related to user data provided for security purposes and used to target ads.
We’ve reached out to the FTC for clarification on the consent decree and individual employee liability and will update if we receive more information.