By Frank Fang
Twitter CEO Elon Musk said he was stunned after learning that the U.S. government had “full access” to users’ private direct messages (DMs).
Musk, who took over Twitter in October last year in a $44 billion deal, made the comments in a recent interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, which is due to air on Monday night.
“The degree to which various government agencies effectively had full access to everything that was going on at Twitter blew my mind,” Musk said in a preview clip released on Twitter on April 16. “I was not aware of that.”
The 14-second clip ends with Carlson asking Musk, “Would that include people’s DMs?”
“Yes,” Musk said in response.
A separate preview clip was released a few days earlier, in which Musk tells Carlson that he believes artificial intelligence has the potential to destroy civilizations.
“AI is more dangerous than, say, mismanaged aircraft design or production maintenance or bad car production in the sense that it has the potential—however small one may regard that probability, but it is non-trivial—it has the potential of civilizational destruction.”
Musk’s Tucker Carlson Tonight interview is set to air in two parts on April 17 and 18. Other topics he will address include his future plans for the social media platform.
Musk’s appearance on Fox comes as big tech platforms have come under scrutiny for bias and manipulation. Beginning in December last year, Musk has released many internal Twitter documents, collectively known as the “Twitter Files,” showing how the social media giant handled a number of controversial content-moderation decisions.
One batch of Twitter Files exposed Twitter’s efforts to suppress the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, which was published just weeks before the 2020 presidential election. Another batch revealed the role the FBI played in discrediting articles about the laptop and its contents.
A February hearing held by the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, in which several former Twitter officials testified, failed to establish collusion between Twitter and the FBI in blocking the laptop story.
In March, the Committee on the Judiciary and the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government released an interim report, which revealed that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had orchestrated “an aggressive campaign to harass Twitter” as part of its response following Musk’s takeover.
“Consisting of over a dozen FTC demand letters to Twitter that—in the span of less than three months following Musk’s acquisition—make more than 350 specific demands, this information shows how the FTC has been attempting to harass Twitter and pry into the company’s decisions on matters outside of the FTC’s mandate,” the committee stated in a statement accompanying the report.
The committee added that “The timing, scope, and frequency of the FTC’s demands to Twitter suggest a partisan motivation to its action.”
On April 12, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, subpoenaed FTC Chair Lina Khan over the agency’s Twitter probe. The subpoena asked for the submission of documents and internal communications relating to the probe by April 26.
“To date, your voluntary compliance has been woefully insufficient,” Jordan wrote in a cover letter (pdf) for the subpoena. “Accordingly, the Committee is issuing a subpoena to compel the production of documents necessary to inform our oversight.”
In response, FTC spokesperson Douglas Farrar said the subpoena was unnecessary.
“The FTC respects the important role of Congressional oversight. We have made multiple offers to brief Chairman Jordan’s staff on our investigation into Twitter,” Farrar said in response. “Those are standing offers made prior to this entirely unnecessary subpoena.”