Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former head of security, made the bombshell revelation to both Congress and federal agencies in July 2022. He pointed out that the website is primarily comprised of millions of “bots,” whose mission is to engage in “social conditioning.”
Zatko remarked that Twitter executives are clueless about the actual number of bots active on the platform and how they ought to deal with them, that they turn a blind eye to the problem altogether. He added that the social media firm’s bigwigs had been “covering up extreme, egregious deficiencies” on the platform.
The former head of security reported directly to former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and his successor, incumbent CEO Parag Agrawal. (Related: Former top Twitter security exec blows whistle to help Elon Musk: Platform is major national security risk full of bots pushing social engineering agenda.)
Zatko also revealed that the Big Tech firm is mismanaged, with thousands of staff members given access to “central controls” and extremely sensitive information without adequate oversight. He also claimed that Twitter employees may also be working as spies for foreign intelligence – making Twitter a huge risk to national security and democracy.
According to the whistleblower, Twitter does not “reliably” delete data when a user cancels an account due to staff losing track of it. Its executives also misled the board of directors about the platform’s security flaws that have left it open to hacking, manipulation and disinformation.
Zatko, who previously worked at Google and the Department of Defense, was terminated in January 2022. He refused to believe that his firing was due to poor performance, arguing instead that he was sacked as retaliation for raising concerns about security lapses to Twitter’s board of directors.
Agrawal pushes back, denies Zatko’s accusations
According to the Daily Mail, Zatko joined Twitter in November 2020 following the Twitter accounts of former President Barack Obama, incumbent President Joe Biden and Musk himself being hacked.
Upon his appointment, Zatko promised to examine information security, engineering, site integrity, physical security and platform integrity – the latter touching on abuse and manipulation of the Twitter platform.
Zatko’s revelations only confirmed the suspicions of Musk about the actual number of bots on Twitter. The Tesla bigwig claimed that the social media platform had not been honest about the number of bots and fake accounts on the site. Twitter’s bot issue also played a big role in Musk reneging on his $44 billion deal to buy the company, which boasts 238 million daily users.
Meanwhile, Agrawal responded to Zatko’s allegations in an Aug. 23 memo.
“We are reviewing the claims that have been published,” he wrote. “But what we have seen so far is a false narrative that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.”
Agrawal added that Zatko “was accountable for many aspects of this work that he is now inaccurately portraying more than six months after his termination.” The Twitter CEO reiterated that the company “will pursue all paths to defend our integrity as a company and set the record straight.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Zatko’s revelations raised serious national security concerns and privacy issues that merit an investigation.
“Take a tech platform that collects massive amounts of user data, combine it with what appears to be an incredibly weak security infrastructure and infuse it with foreign state actors with an agenda,” he said. “You’ve got a recipe for disaster.”
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Watch this Fox Business report that talks about Zatko’s revelations regarding Twitter.
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