Bot Drama: Twitter Whistleblower Gives Elon Musk a Boost

Bot Drama: Twitter Whistleblower Gives Elon Musk a Boost

In a shocking story early Tuesday, Twitter’s former head of security came forward as a whistleblower, claiming “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in security by the company.

In a shocking story early Tuesday, Twitter’s former head of security came forward as a whistleblower, claiming “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in security by the company. 

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko served as the company’s head of security from late 2020 until earlier this year. Formerly an “ethical hacker” of some renown, Zatko was let go by Twitter in January. 

In his disclosure, Zatko, represented by Whistleblower Aid, said that he “witnessed senior executive engaging in deceitful and/or misleading communications affecting Board members, users, and shareholders.” He also alleged a “volume and frequency of security incidents impacting a large number of users’ data that is frankly stunning.”

In addition, Zatko appeared to lend validity to Elon Musk’s claims in his lawsuit against Twitter about the company not having a handle on how many fake accounts, or bots, are on its platform. Musk’s attorney told CNBC that they had already issued a subpoena to Zatko. 

Twitter’s CEO, Parag Agrawal, addressed the claims in a letter to employees published Tuesday. He noted that Zatko “was terminated in January 2022 for ineffective leadership and poor performance.” 

He also addresses the claims themselves. 

“We are reviewing the redacted claims that have been published, but from what we’ve seen so far this is a false narrative that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies, and presented without important context.” 

In detail, Agrawal stated in the memo, "Mudge was accountable for many aspects of this work that he is now inaccurately portraying more than six months after his termination,” before praising his employees for their work this year.  

“Given the spotlight on Twitter at the moment, we can assume that we will continue to see more headlines in the coming days- this will only make our work harder,” he said. “I know that all of you take a lot of pride in the work we do together and in the values that guide us. We will pursue all paths to defend our integrity as a company and set the record straight.” 

The report sent Twitter’s stock downward to just over $40 a share when it was trading at $44 a share just four days ago. Musk had agreed to buy the company at $54.20 a share, giving it a value of $44 billion. 

On Tuesday, CNN looked at what the whistleblower complaint could mean for the Musk dispute. 

“For years, across many public statements and [SEC] filings, Twitter has made material misrepresentations and omissions … regarding security, privacy and integrity,” Zatko’s disclosure states. “Twitter’s misrepresentations are especially impactful, given that they are directly at issue in Elon Musk’s contemplated takeover of the company.”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: Reuters.