Peiter Zatko, former head of security for Twitter and recent whistleblower, will participate “in closed-door briefings this week on Capitol Hill,” according to an August 23 article from CNN.
Zatko recently filed whistleblower complaints with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Department of Justice (DOJ). He alleges that Twitter “deceived regulators, investors, and its own board of directors about ‘extreme, egregious deficiencies’ in its cybersecurity defenses,’” WNN reported on August 23.
Zatko worked at Twitter from November 2020 until January 2022. He is claiming that Twitter and higher-ups at the company, including members of the Board of Directors, have violated the Federal Trade Commission Act “by making false and misleading statements to users and the FTC about, inter alia, the Twitter’s platform’s security, privacy, and integrity.” He also alleges that the social media company violated “SEC rules governing public companies including, inter alia, auditing requirements” and “fraudulent and material misrepresentations in communications with the Board of Directors and investors, constituting securities violations,” WNN reporting states.
His complaint also includes several instances in which executives at Twitter, including CEO Parag Agrawal, allegedly engaged in “deliberate efforts to mislead.” According to the CNN article, Zatko has said that “his public whistleblowing comes after he attempted to flag the security lapses to Twitter’s board and to help Twitter fix years of technical shortcomings and alleged non-compliance with an earlier privacy agreement with the FTC.”
Following the reporting of Zatko’s whistleblower complaints by The Washington Post and CNN, Agrawal sent an internal memo to all Twitter employees that called Zatko’s allegations “frustrating and confusing to read.” CNN reports that Agrawal told employees, “This will only make our work harder…We will pursue all paths to defend our integrity as a company and set the record straight.”
In the wake of Zatko’s disclosures, many are analyzing how the complaints will impact Elon Musk’s bid to purchase Twitter. According to CNN, Musk has raised the issue of bot accounts on Twitter and previously posited that “the company might be significantly underreporting the number of spam and fake accounts, although he had little apparent evidence beyond his own experience on the platform to support the claim.” CNN reports that Musk “made the issue central to the legal fight over the $44 billion acquisition, even as Twitter argues Musk is simply attempting to get out of a deal for which he now has buyer’s remorse amid a market downturn.”
According to CNN, Zatko’s allegations, which include claims that Twitter “has neither the incentive nor the resources to properly measure the full scope of bots on its platform,” have the potential to “bolster Musk’s argument and potentially encourage the court to pay closer attention to the bot issue.” Read more about what Zatko’s claims could mean for Musk here.