After the Federal Trade Commission launched a probe into Twitter over privacy concerns, Twitter’s negotiations with the FTC do not seem to be going very well. Last week, it was revealed that Twitter CEO Elon Musk’s request last year for a meeting with FTC Chair Lina Khan was rebuffed. Now, a senior Twitter lawyer, Christian Dowell—who was closely involved in those FTC talks—has resigned, several people familiar with the matter told The New York Times.
Dowell joined Twitter in 2020 and rose in the ranks after several of Twitter’s top lawyers exited or were fired once Musk took over the platform in the fall of 2022, Bloomberg reported. Most recently, Dowell—who has not yet confirmed his resignation—oversaw Twitter’s product legal counsel. In that role, he was “intimately involved” in the FTC negotiations, sources told the Times, including coordinating Twitter’s responses to FTC inquiries.
The FTC has overseen Twitter’s privacy practices for more than a decade after it found that the platform failed to safeguard personal information and issued a consent order in 2011. The agency launched its current probe into Twitter’s operations after Musk began mass layoffs that seemed to introduce new security concerns, AP News reported. The Times reported that the FTC’s investigation intensified after security executives quit Twitter over concerns that Musk might be violating the FTC’s privacy decree.
The FTC declined Ars’ request to comment, and Twitter continues to reply with a poop emoji in lieu of comments.
If the Times’ report is accurate, it’s unclear who will replace Dowell as Twitter’s senior product counsel overseeing FTC negotiations. Musk recently stopped relying on his personal lawyer to chip in at Twitter, but the Times reported that he has seemingly continued to seek guidance from lawyers at SpaceX, one of his other companies.
While the FTC probe remains ongoing, Musk’s layoffs have seemingly ensured that Twitter’s legal woes will continue compounding. Not only is Twitter seeking legal action against the suspected ex-employee who leaked Twitter source code on Github, but Twitter is also currently involved in individual arbitration with hundreds, if not thousands, of ex-employees who were not allowed to join a class-action lawsuit over allegedly missing severance payments and lost wages.
Twitter will need to fill Dowell’s position soon, it seems, since Germany’s federal office of justice just this week launched another probe into the platform, Reuters reported. The German authority’s probe is concerned with Twitter’s seeming failure to delete or block illegal content in the country and is threatening to fine Twitter up to 50 million euros if the illegal content is not removed, Forbes reported.
Musk did not seem to see that probe coming, responding in a tweet, “First I’ve heard about this. Did they identify what content they’re concerned about?” Reuters’ report said that the German office cited several complaints about illegal content on Twitter, but while authorities said they have “sufficient evidence,” they did not provide examples of illegal content driving those complaints.
Forbes reported that illegal content in Germany includes hate speech, personal threats, defamation, and antisemitism. That report also noted that Twitter is being sued by a digital rights campaign group, HateAid, and the European Union of Jewish Students for claims that Twitter failed to remove content reported for antisemitism.
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