Twitter Ordered Whistleblower to Destroy Evidence, Alleges Elon Musk

Elon Musk last week accused Twitter of ordering former security chief turned whistleblower Peiter Zatko to destroy evidence of operational issues at the company — reports Bloomberg.

Musk made the allegations in court documents filed on October 3, just one day before he offered to go through with his acquisition of Twitter on the original terms. According to the filings, which were unsealed on Monday, Zatko said he burned 10 handwritten notebooks and erased 1000 digital files as part of his $7.8 million severance agreement.

The burned books supposedly contained notes from Zatko’s meetings with fellow Twitter executives that would have proved Twitter neglected operational problems and covered up violations of several legal settlements with U.S. regulators.

“Twitter’s attempt to buy Mr. Zatko’s silence failed, but Twitter achieved its secondary aim of ensuring Mr. Zatko’s corroborating evidence would never come to light,” Musk’s lawyers said in the now-unsealed filing.

Zatko came forward last month with claims of “far-reaching misconduct at Twitter.” The former security chief alleged that Twitter had serious security issues and privacy concerns that management ignored.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, Zatko said Twitter’s lax approach to computer security threatened U.S. national security and the company misrepresented the efficacy of its digital defences to authorities.

Zatko’s claims served as the central argument for Musk’s third notice to terminate his deal with Twitter, although the celebrity billionaire has since said he wants to buy Twitter for his original offer of $44 billion USD.

According to Zatko, Twitter also misled regulators and had no means of actually determining how much of its user base was made up of spam/fake accounts. The latter was another bone of contention between Musk and Twitter.

In response to Zatko’s claims, Twitter said it fired him in January for poor performance and that he gave “a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context.”

Musk’s legal team argued in the recently unsealed filing that the document-destruction order deprived them of “critical corroborating evidence of Mr. Zatko’s allegations, which would support his account of key meetings and conversations relevant to this case.”

With Elon Musk reviving his offer to buy Twitter outright, the Musk-Twitter trial in the Delaware Court of Chancery to determine the fate of the merger has been put on hold by Judge Kathaleen McCormick. The two parties now have until October 28 to close the deal, failing which the trial will proceed in November.

Musk’s lawyers are asking McCormick to sanction Twitter’s attorneys for ordering the destruction of potential evidence in the case.