By Katie Paul and Paresh Dave
(Reuters) -The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday it was watching Twitter with “deep concern” after the social media platform’s top privacy and compliance officers quit, potentially putting it at risk of violating regulatory orders.
The company’s chief security officer Lea Kissner on Thursday in a tweet said that she quit. Chief Privacy Officer Damien Kieran and Chief Compliance Officer Marianne Fogarty have also resigned, according to an internal message seen by Reuters.
The departures come after the platform’s new owner, billionaire Elon Musk, moved swiftly to clean house after taking over Twitter for $44 billion on Oct. 27. He announced plans to cut half its workforce last week, promised to stop fake accounts and is charging $8 a month for the Twitter Blue service that will include a blue check verification.
“We are tracking recent developments at Twitter with deep concern,” Douglas Farrar, the FTC’s director of public affairs, told Reuters.
“No CEO or company is above the law, and companies must follow our consent decrees. Our revised consent order gives us new tools to ensure compliance, and we are prepared to use them,” Farrar said.
In May, Twitter agreed to pay $150 million to settle allegations by the FTC it misused private information, like phone numbers, to target advertising to users after telling them the information was collected only for security reasons.
An attorney on Twitter’s privacy team reported the executive departures in a note seen by Reuters and posted to Twitter’s Slack messaging system on Thursday.
In the note, the attorney mentioned hearing Twitter’s legal chief Alex Spiro say that Musk was willing to take a “huge amount of risk” with Twitter. “Elon puts rockets into space, he’s not afraid of the FTC,” the attorney quoted Spiro as saying.
Twitter did not respond to a request for comment on the FTC warning, the note from the attorney or the departures. Spiro did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Since taking charge, Musk has fired former Chief Executive Parag Agrawal and other top management, and the company’s advertising and marketing chiefs left soon afterwards, adding to concerns that Twitter does not have enough people in place to monitor that it remains compliant with regulations.
The takeover has also sparked concerns that Musk, who has often waded into political debates, could face pressure from countries trying to control online speech.
It prompted U.S. President Joe Biden to say on Wednesday that Musk’s “cooperation and/or technical relationships with other countries is worthy of being looked at.”
ADVERTISERS NOT REASSURED
Musk told advertisers on Wednesday, speaking on Twitter’s Spaces feature, that he aimed to turn the platform into a force for truth and stop fake accounts, hoping to assuage advertisers rattled by the changes at the company.
His assurances may not be enough.
Chipotle Mexican Grill said on Thursday it had pulled back its paid and owned content on Twitter “while we gain a better understanding on the direction of the platform under its new leadership.”
It joined other brands including General Motors that have paused advertising on Twitter since Musk took over, concerned that he will loosen content moderation rules.
Musk sent his first email to Twitter employees on Thursday, saying remote work would no longer be allowed and that they would be expected in office for at least 40 hours per week, according to Bloomberg News.
In the email, Musk said he wants to see subscriptions account for half of Twitter’s revenue.
On Thursday Musk tweeted: “Far too many corrupt legacy Blue ‘verification’ checkmarks exist, so no choice but to remove legacy Blue in coming months.”
The attorney’s note confirming the executive departures was first reported by tech news site The Verge.
(Reporting by Katie Paul in Palo Alto, California and Paresh Dave in Oakland, California; Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, Diane Bartz in Washington, and Yuvraj Malik in Bengaluru; Writing by Sayantani Ghosh; Editing by Arun Koyyur, Shounak Dasgupta, Bill Berkrot and Deepa Babington)