A group of 18 House Republicans is asking Twitter’s board to preserve all records related to Elon Musk‘s offer to buy the company, setting up a potential congressional probe should the party win back the majority this fall.
In a letter shared exclusively with CNBC, Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee asked Twitter Board Chairman Bret Taylor to preserve any messages from official or personal accounts, including through encryption software, that relate to Twitter’s consideration of Musk’s offer.
“As Congress continues to examine Big Tech and how to best protect Americans’ free speech rights, this letter serves as a formal request that you preserve all records and materials relating to Musk’s offer to purchase Twitter, including Twitter’s consideration and response to this offer, and Twitter’s evaluation of its shareholder interests with respect to Musk’s offer,” said the letter, led by Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
“You should construe this preservation notice as an instruction to take all reasonable steps to prevent the destruction or alteration, whether intentionally or negligently, of all documents, communications, and other information, including electronic information and metadata, that is or may be potentially responsive to this congressional inquiry,” the letter continued.
The request signals that should Republicans take back the majority in the House in the 2022 midterm elections, they may launch an investigation into Twitter, especially if the company declines to take the offer from Musk, who’s CEO of Tesla and SpaceX. Under Republican control, the House Judiciary Committee could decide to subpoena records about the board’s internal deliberations.
It’s not the first time Twitter has caught the attention of Republican lawmakers.
The platform has become a focal point for some conservative members who’ve charged that Twitter unfairly removes or moderates posts on ideological grounds. Twitter has denied doing so and says it enforces standards based on its community guidelines.
In the letter to Taylor dated Friday, the lawmakers wrote: “Decisions regarding Twitter’s future governance will undoubtedly be consequential for public discourse in the United States and could give rise to renewed efforts to legislate in furtherance of preserving free expression online. Among other things, the Board’s reactions to Elon Musk’s offer to purchase Twitter, and outsider opposition to Musk’s role in Twitter’s future are concerning.”
Twitter also became the focus of Republican criticism in October 2020 when it blocked links to a New York Post story that alleged Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, while his father was vice president, tried to introduce his father to a top executive from a Ukrainian company he worked for. A spokesperson for Biden’s presidential campaign at the time of the story’s publication said that no such meeting ever took place and that the Post “never asked the Biden campaign about the critical elements of this story.”
Twitter said at the time that it blocked links to the story because it violated its hacked materials policy and included personal information like email addresses, also violating its rules. Then-CEO Jack Dorsey later said it was “wrong” to block links to the story and said Twitter updated its policy to reflect that. The ordeal escalated criticism from the right on Twitter, many of whom felt the company unfairly blocked the story on ideological grounds.