Did Musk Influence The Twitter Whistleblower About the Bots Issue?


TwitterFormer Twitter employee Peiter Zatko is accusing the company of lying to just about everyone

A whistleblower disclosure by Twitter’s former security chief made allegations of “egregious deficiencies” in the company’s security and argued that the social media platform has more spam bots than it publicly acknowledges. But even as Twitter stocks fell 7.3% on Tuesday following the public release of Peiter “Mudge” Zatko’s 84-page report, legal experts were skeptical that the claims would give billionaire Elon Musk a decisive advantage in his court battle to back out of his deal to buy the company.

Zatko is a well-known ethical hacker with the alias “Mudge.” He told the Post that he “felt ethically bound” to report his serious concerns to government agencies. He alleges that he was fired for pushing disinclined Twitter executives to address major security problems—which his complaint suggests “pose a threat” to Twitter “users’ personal information, to company shareholders, to national security, and to democracy.”

Zatko alleges that Twitter execs were more invested in covering up those vulnerabilities, including cherry-picking and misrepresenting data on spam accounts and security threats to regulators and Twitter’s board members. “Executives stood to win individual bonuses of as much as US$10 million tied to increases in daily users, the complaint asserts, and nothing explicitly for cutting spam,” the Post reported. These security risks, CNN reported, “could allegedly open the door to foreign spying or manipulation, hacking, and disinformation campaigns.”

After a Twitter whistleblower claimed that the microblogging platform lied to Elon Musk about bots, the tech billionaire has now reacted to it and shared some cryptic tweets. On the microblogging site, Musk said that “in case anyone feels like buying a fine whistle…” along with a picture of a whistle. “So spam prevalence was shared with the board, but the board chose not to disclose that to the public” he added. Meanwhile, some Twitter users also shared their opinion on the platform about the Musk-Twitter saga.

The Musk claims might get the most attention, given the eccentric billionaire’s high profile and the continuing controversy over his attempt to buy (and then not buy) Twitter. They’re placed relatively high in the SEC complaint that was leaked to the Washington Post and CNN on Tuesday, and some of the claims Zatko makes deal directly with the accusations Musk has made to try to get out of his US$44 billion deal. Musk has said that fake accounts, or spam bots, are a much larger slice of Twitter’s user base than the company claimed, and therefore Twitter isn’t worth what he originally agreed to pay for it. Twitter disagrees, saying Musk is trying to find a reason to get out of the deal. The company sued Musk to force him to acquire the company. That trial is scheduled to begin on October 17.