Twitter again in the heart of the turmoil. While the legal dispute against Elon Musk never ends, the social network is now accused by its former security chief of having concealed vulnerabilities in its protection system and lied about its fight against fake accounts. Presenting himself as a whistleblower, Peiter Zatko, last month sent an 84-page document to several American authorities. Revealed Tuesday by the washington postthe document mentions “serious and shocking failings, willful ignorance and threats to national security and democracy”.
Peiter Zatko mentions in particular obsolete servers, software vulnerable to computer attacks and affirms that the leaders of Twitter have sought to hide the number of hacking attempts from the American authorities as well as from the members of the board of directors.
Twitter, for its part, refutes its accusations and ensures that security and data protection are among its priorities. The complaint is “full of inconsistencies and inaccuracies”, ensures the social network. The company is also directly attacking its former manager, accusing him of having chosen « an opportune moment » for « draw attention » and “harming Twitter, its customers and its shareholders”.
Privileged growth in the fight against spam
Along with accusations of security failures, Peiter Zatko also claims that company officials have consistently prioritized user growth over combating spam (junk mail) and bots ( automatic software). In particular, he describes as a lie a tweet published in May by the boss of the platform, Parag Agrawal, assuring that his group was doing everything to detect and remove spam as quickly as possible.
An important subject since it is this very question that is at the heart of the legal battle between Twitter and Elon Musk, the billionaire having repeatedly accused the company of minimizing the proportion of fake accounts and spam, assessed 5% by the platform. Elon Musk is counting on this argument to justify abandoning his plan to buy Twitter for $44 billion and avoid paying severance pay. “We have already subpoenaed Mr. Zatko and find his dismissal and that of other key employees strange in light of what we have discovered”, said Alex Spiro, one of Elon Musk’s lawyers. The billionaire, for his part, reacted by posting, on Twitter, a drawing of the cartoon character Jiminy Cricket whistling, an allusion to the English word designating whistleblowers.
Former hacker known by the nickname « Mudge », Peiter Zatko was hired at the end of 2020 by the co-founder and ex-boss of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, after the hacking of the accounts of many personalities such as Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos or even Kim Kardashian. According to Twitter, he was fired due to “of ineffective leadership and poor performance”.
« Fake »answer his lawyers: he was fired « just two weeks » after a confrontation with Parag Agrawal over security issues.
« Courage »
Peiter Zatko is being helped in his efforts by the association for the protection of whistleblowers, Whistleblower Aid, which has already defended Frances Haugen, a former Facebook computer scientist whose revelations had tarnished the reputation of the social media giant in the fall. last. “It took the courage of a high-ranking whistleblower with an impeccable reputation on issues of ethics and integrity for government agencies and the public to learn the truth”says Libby Liu, director of the association.
According to the American media, representatives of Congress wish to speak with Peiter Zatko. “If these accusations are true, they may raise fears of data protection and security risks for Twitter users around the world”said influential Democratic Senator Dick Durbin in a statement.
The complaint also shows that the weakness of the platform’s response to misinformation is « extraordinary », says Paul Barrett, specialist in the impact of social networks on democracy at New York University NYU. According to the document given to the authorities, Twitter “hired only two experts dedicated to misinformation, employs few people who speak languages other than English, and relies primarily on moderators lacking the cultural and geographic knowledge to identify misinformation”.