Science

Twitter in turmoil after serious whistleblower allegations, Elon Musk rubbing his hands

Controversy at the worst time for Twitter. While the social network is engaged in a legal battle against Elon Musk to force him to fulfill his promise to buy, bluebird must now face a scandal that he would have arranged well: a man who introduced himself as a pitcher, Peter Zatko, accuses him of he covered up vulnerabilities in his security system and lied about his fight against fake accounts. The last point is especially sensitive: it is he who is the declared subject of the dispute between Elon Musk and Twitter. The multi-billionaire boss of Tesla and SpaceX accuses Twitter of lying about the actual number of fake accounts on the platform and uses this argument to justify his refusal and thus cancel the takeover.

In his complaint, Elon Musk accuses Twitter of “hiding the truth” about the number of monetized accounts.

‘Serious and shocking’ security breaches

In an 84-page document sent last month to several US authorities and released Tuesday by the Washington Post and CNN, Peter Zatko denounces “grave and shocking shortcomings, willful ignorance, and threats to national security and democracy.”

Among the most explosive accusations, the former head of security cites serious security breaches, as well as the desire of management to bury these problems rather than deal with them. He claims that Twitter management sought to hide the number of hacking attempts from the US authorities, as well as from members of the board of directors. According to him, Twitter allegedly violated the terms of an 11-year agreement with the Federal Trade Commission [l’autorité américaine de la concurrence, Ndlr] falsely claiming that he has a solid security plan in place.

Zatko claims he warned colleagues that half of the company’s servers were running outdated and vulnerable software. He would also decry that the leaders hid from the board of directors the number of violations and the lack of protection of user data, presenting encouraging graphics instead.

He also claims that thousands of employees still have extensive internal access to the company’s core software, and that this situation has led to embarrassing hacks for years, including taking over the accounts of high-profile users such as Elon Musk and former presidents Barack Obama. and Donald Trump.

Elon Musk is in controversy

That’s not all. If data security allegations form the bulk of the document, the alleged whistleblower also attacks Twitter’s management of fake accounts.

According to Pater Zalko, Twitter has consistently prioritized expanding its user base over fighting spam and bots. The alleged whistleblower, in particular, calls a tweet published in May by platform boss Parag Agrawal, claiming that Twitter is doing everything to detect and remove spam as quickly as possible, a lie.

However, at the heart of the dispute with Elon Musk is the issue of bots. He accuses the company of minimizing the share of fake accounts and spam, which the platform estimates at 5%. The alleged negligence exposed by the ex-employee may give Musk an additional case to justify abandoning his plan to buy Twitter for $44 billion and avoid paying severance pay.

“We have already taken Mr. Zatko to court and consider his dismissal and the dismissal of other key employees strange in light of what we have found,” Alex Spiro, one of Elon Musk’s lawyers, told AFP in an email. The entrepreneur, for his part, reacted by posting on Twitter a drawing of a whistling cartoon character Jiminy Cricket, a nod to the English word for whistleblowers.

However, the whistleblower’s allegations of fake accounts seem to only point to the platform’s lazy fight against spam and bots, rather than its claim that there are only 5% of fake accounts. However, the dispute with Musk concerns the number of fake accounts. Elon Musk, by contrast, can use accusations that Twitter lied to regulators and misled shareholders to his advantage.

Opportunistic Complaint on Twitter

For its part, Twitter denies all these accusations. The company assures that security and data protection are among its priorities and that the complaint ” full of inconsistencies and inaccuracies “.

Twitter is also directly attacking its former manager, accusing him of choosing convenient time ” per ” note ” as well as ” Harm Twitter, its customers and shareholders “. Former hacker, known by the nickname “Mudge”, Peter Zatko was hired in late 2020 by co-founder and ex-Twitter boss Jack Dorsey after hacking the accounts of many personalities (Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Kim Kardashian. ..)

According to Twitter, he was fired due to ” ineffective leadership and poor performance “. ” False “, answer his lawyers, for which he was fired” just two weeks after a confrontation with Parag Agrawal over security issues. The former chief is aided in his efforts by a whistleblower advocacy association, Whistleblower Aid, which has already defended Francis Haugen, a former computer scientist at Facebook. whose startling revelations tarnished the social media giant’s reputation last fall.

“Facebook files”: the most devastating scandal in the history of Facebook

Twitter under the gun of regulators

According to The Washington Post and CNN, Congressional officials want to speak with Peter Zatko. “If true, these allegations could raise concerns about data protection and security risks for Twitter users around the world,” influential Democratic Senator Dick Durbin said in a statement.

The complaint also shows that the platform’s weak response to disinformation is ” extraordinary “Said Paul Barrett, an expert on the impact of social media on democracy at NYU’s New York University.

According to the document, Twitter ” employs only two disinformation experts, employs few people who speak languages ​​other than English, and relies heavily on moderators who lack cultural and geographical knowledge to identify disinformation.” he denounces in a message sent to AFP.

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