Twitter CEO Elon Musk has come under fire from Democratic lawmakers and federal bureaucrats in response to his release of the so-called “Twitter Files,” which have exposed, among other things, the intelligence community’s apparent influence on the social media platform’s content moderation decisions.
The Federal Trade Commission recently demanded that Musk reveal all of the journalists with whom he has worked to release the internal documents dating back to before his acquisition of the company. That demand drew pointed criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The House Judiciary Committee issued a statement asserting that “the FTC’s demands to Twitter suggest a partisan motivation to its action,” adding: “The ostensible legal basis for the demand letters—including monitoring Twitter’s privacy and information security program under a revised consent decree between the company and the FTC—fails to provide adequate cover for the FTC’s action. A number of the FTC’s demands have little to no nexus to users’ privacy and information.”
Meanwhile, House Democrats on the panel revealed their animosity toward one of those journalists during a hearing on Thursday.
Matt Taibbi, who published a number of the released documents provided by Musk, encountered a hostile reception by minority members of the GOP-led committee.
Just months after Democratic legislators advanced a bill designed to prevent the government from compelling journalists to violate the confidence of their sources, that seemed to be precisely what some of the judiciary panel members wanted Taibbi to do.
Delegate Stacey E. Plaksett of the Virgin Islands asked Taibbi when Musk initially contacted him about the Twitter Files and Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) doubled down with her own demand, asserting: “I just need a date, sir.”
Matt Taibbi epic comeback:
"Ranking Member Plaskett, I'm not a 'so-called journalist'. I've won the National Magazine Award, the I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and I've written 10 books including 4 NYT Best Sellers." pic.twitter.com/crXlWjScEr
— Citizen Free Press (@CitizenFreePres) March 9, 2023
Taibbi, however, remained resolute in his refusal to provide the information.
“I can’t give it to you unfortunately, because this is a question of sourcing and I don’t give up — I’m a journalist — I don’t reveal my sources,” he proclaimed.
Garcia would not accept his response, frequently talking over him in an effort to get him to admit that Musk was the source of the information. Finally, Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) chimed in with a full-throated defense of Taibbi’s rights as a journalist.
“What he has said is that he is not going to reveal his source and the fact that Democrats are pressuring him to do so is such a violation of the First Amendment,” Jordan asserted.