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Whistleblower’s claims on Twitter could be a ‘smoking gun’ for Musk. See his post

Peiter Zatko, the former head of security at Twitter, has accused the company of ignoring spam and bot accounts on its microblogging platform. Elon Musk responded to the accusation in his trademark style - with a meme.

August 24, 2022 / 11:41 AM IST
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, the former head of security at Twitter, has accused the company of ignoring spam and bot accounts on its microblogging platform among a host of other negligent security practices. Legal experts say this complaint could help Elon Musk walk away from his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter.

Musk responded to the explosive claims in his trademark style – with a meme. The Tesla billionaire has been trying to back out of his April agreement to buy the social media company. Central to his argument for backing out of the deal is Musk’s claim that Twitter is underestimating the number of bots and spam accounts on its platform.

Zatko has accused Twitter of significantly underestimating the number of automated bots on its platform, saying that the company failed to disclose the true extent of such accounts in his complaint reported by The Washington Post and CNN. The whistleblower accused Twitter of trying to grow its user base instead of fighting the problem of spam accounts – a fact, if it turns out to be true, could play right into Musk’s attempt to back out of his multibillion dollar deal to acquire Twitter.

If Zatok’s claims hold water, “that’s just the kind of smoking gun Musk had to be pinning his hopes on,” said Larry Hamermesh, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, according to Bloomberg.

The Washington Post report stated that Twitter kept “internal tallies of spam and bot accounts - known as prevalence – across the service beyond the number supplied to Wall Street.”

“Post also obtained an internal document, which was redacted to hide numbers, showing that ‘spam prevalence’ was a number shared with the board,” the report said.

Musk quoted the report as he tweeted: “So spam prevalence *was* shared with the board, but the board chose not disclose that to the public.”

Twitter says it fired Peiter Zatko earlier this year for poor performance while dismissing his accusations about malpractices and misleading government agencies.

The hacker-turned-executive, who goes by the nickname Mudge, also accused the platform's boss Parag Agrawal of “lying” in a tweet in May.

In the tweet, Agrawal says Twitter is “strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can.”

"What we've seen so far is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context," a Twitter spokesperson told AFP in a statement.

(With inputs from AFP)

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first published: Aug 24, 2022 10:41 am