US govt fine Elon Musk's X for not releasing Trump's twitter records

US govt fine Elon Musk’s X for not releasing Trump’s twitter records

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Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, was fined $350,000 after missing a deadline for complying with a secret search warrant for Donald Trump’s account as part of a US Department of Justice investigation into the former president.

A search warrant was served on X earlier this year as part of the investigation into possible interference with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election and the storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters on January 6, 2021, according to an order by an appeals court on Wednesday.

X was required to turn over information and documents pertaining to Trump’s @realdonaldtrump Twitter account, which he frequently utilized as a megaphone to speak directly to his millions of followers throughout his presidency, in accordance with the DoJ’s search warrant.

But X failed to comply with the request from the team led by special counsel Jack Smith until three days after the court-ordered deadline, according to the order, and produced only an incomplete set of records on the deadline. According to the complaint, the delay occurred while X unsuccessfully tried to challenge a non-disclosure order that forbade it from discussing the warrant in public. The business claimed that the non-disclosure order violated its First Amendment right to free speech.

According to the legal document, a lower court determined that there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that alerting Trump “would seriously jeopardize” Smith’s investigation by giving him “an opportunity to destroy evidence, change patterns of behavior, [or] notify confederates.”

The lower court also said there was reason to believe the ex-president would “flee from prosecution”, but the government later said it had “errantly included flight from prosecution as a predicate” in its request, the court document said.

Following X’s $350,000 payment, the lower court in June allowed the company to alert Trump of the warrant with some limitations since information on probes targeting the ex-president had become public.

The fine for contempt of court was issued at the same time that billionaire businessman Elon Musk, who in October paid $44 billion for Twitter, reduced the platform’s workforce from 7,500 to approximately 1,500 as a cost-saving measure. This caused internal disruption and sparked worries that several teams may have been left understaffed.

Particularly, the corporation has been under fire for reducing compliance workers, which has alarmed several international regulators.

Trump’s Twitter account was suspended after the January 6 riots. But Musk, a self-described free-speech absolutist, restored it when he took over the company. Trump, who is spearheading rival social media site Truth Social, has not yet resumed posting on the site.

The former president was arraigned in a Washington court last week on four criminal counts, including conspiring to defraud the US and to obstruct a government proceeding, in the second case to be brought by Smith’s office.

 

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