Twitter Misled Regulators on Bot Accounts, Says Ex-Security Chief
In complaints filed last month with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Department of Justice, Zatko also said that Twitter executives don’t have the means or the motivation to accurately calculate the number of bot accounts on the platform.
If true, Zatko’s claims would invalidate the bot estimates Twitter has been asserting as part of regulatory filings and acquisition negotiations with Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Twitter’s bot numbers (and how the platform calculates them) have been a major bone of contention between the company and Musk. The celebrity billionaire last month announced he was “terminating” his $44 billion bid to acquire Twitter after repeatedly and publicly accusing the social media company of understating bot account figures.
Musk’s lawyers said Twitter withheld information on bot accounts and misrepresented how many there are on the platform, amounting to a material breach of the pair’s agreement. The two parties are set to take the issue up in court on October 17.
Zatko, a notorious hacker who goes by “Mudge,” was hired to head Twitter’s security two years ago. He was let go from his senior executive position in January for “ineffective leadership and poor performance,” according to a Twitter spokesperson.
“Zatko’s allegations and opportunistic timing appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on Twitter, its customers and its shareholders. Security and privacy have long been company-wide priorities at Twitter and will continue to be,” said Twitter in response.
John Tye, Zatko’s lawyer and founder of Whistleblower Aid, maintains Zatko’s whistleblower proceedings predate Musk’s involvement with Twitter. He added that Zatko has not been in contact with Musk either.