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Twitter accused of lies and manipulation by its ex-security chief

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In an 84-page document sent last month to the United States Department of Justice, the country’s stock market regulator and competition authority, revealed by the washington post and CNN, Peiter Zatko denounces serious and shocking shortcomings, willful ignorance and threats to national security and democracy.

For its part, Twitter ensures that security and data protection are among its priorities and affirms, in a message sent to AFP, that the complaint is full of inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

The company also accuses its former manager of opportunism aimed at harm Twitter, its customers and its shareholders.

A whistleblower?

Peiter Zatko, who presents himself as a whistleblower, mentions in his document obsolete servers and software vulnerable to computer attacks. He also claims that Twitter’s senior management sought to hide the number of hacking attempts from US authorities as well as board members.

Portrait of man in front of an American flag.

Peiter Zatko, former security chief of Twitter

Photo: via Reuters/US federal government

These shortcomings, according to the former manager, have made the social network particularly exposed to cyberattacks of foreign origin which want to jeopardize American national security.

Peiter Zatko also asserts that the company has consistently prioritized the growth of its number of users over the fight against spam (Spam) and fake accounts.

He thus describes as a lie a tweet published in May by the boss of the platform, Parag Agrawal, in which the leader assured that Twitter was doing everything to detect and remove spam as quickly as possible.

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Elon Musk uses ex-employee information

The question of fake accounts is at the heart of the legal battle between Twitter and Elon Musk. The billionaire has repeatedly accused the company of minimizing the proportion of fake accounts and spam, estimated at 5% by the platform.

Moreover, Elon Musk is counting on this argument to justify the abandonment, at the beginning of July, of his plan to take over Twitter and avoid paying severance pay.

Elon Musk in formal wear does a hand salute.

Elon Musk

Photo: Associated Press/Evan Agostini

We have already subpoenaed Peiter Zatko and find his dismissal and that of other key staff strange in light of what we have discovered.said Alex Spiro, one of Elon Musk’s lawyers, in an email to AFP.

For his part, the entrepreneur reacted by posting, on Twitter, a drawing of the cartoon character Jimini Cricket whistling. An allusion to the English word for whistleblowers.

A former pirate

Peiter Zatko was dismissed in January, due to ineffective leadership and poor performanceaccording to a Twitter spokesperson.

Former hacker known by the nickname Mudge, he was hired at the end of 2020 by the co-founder and former boss of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, after the hacking of the accounts of many personalities (Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Kim Kardashian, etc.).

The man holds two fingers in front of his mouth and looks away.

In this photo from 2018, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testifies before a US Senate committee.

Photo: Associated Press/Jose Luis Magana

He is represented in his proceedings 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 network giant last fall. .

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It took the courage of a high-ranking whistleblower with an impeccable reputation on matters of ethics and integrity for government agencies and the public to learn the truth.said Libby Liu, director of Whistleblower Aid, in a press release.

According to washington post and CNN, the US Senate Intelligence Committee wants to speak with Peter Zatko to discuss his charges. The upper house judiciary committee has also expressed interest.

Its president, Dick Durbin, felt that the whistleblower’s allegations of widespread Twitter security breaches, deliberate misrepresentations by senior management to government agencies, and infiltration of the company by foreign intelligence agencies raise serious concerns.

If these accusations are true, they may raise fears of data protection and security risks for Twitter users around the worldadded the elected Democrat in a press release.

The complaint also shows that the weakness of the platform’s response to misinformation is extraordinarysays Paul Barrett, specialist in the impact of social networks on democracy at New York University NYU.

According to the document, Twitter has only hired two expert people dedicated to misinformation, employs few people who speak languages ​​other than English, and relies mostly on moderators lacking the cultural and geographic knowledge to identify misinformationhe denounces in a message sent to AFP.

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