21 September 2022
In a recent conference call at Twitter's headquarters in San Francisco, shareholders voted and approved the deal with Elon Musk, the world's richest person, to buy the social network platform for $44bn. However, since Mr. Musk backed out of the deal, Twitter will have to take matters to court and force the Tesla billionaire to buy the company.
The decision to sell came right after whistleblower Peiter Zatko, Twitter's former head of security, testified in front of the U.S. Senate in Washington. Zatko claims Twitter's security standards are "a decade behind," and the company is "misleading the public" about the platform's security.
Peiter Zatko was the head of security at Twitter before he was fired in January 2022. He recently blew the whistle on the social network platform's security standards with a detailed 84-page complaint. He claimed that Twitter's security is nowhere near modern standards.
In a damning testimony, Zatko revealed shocking information about how lax the security practices at Twitter are, how user data is not secure, the company's greed for revenue, habitual corruption, and even matters of national security risk.
He tearfully began his testimony by stating that he had not taken the decision to blow the whistle on Twitter lightly. He said that if things improve even a decade down the line, it will all be worth risking his reputation and career.
Mr. Zatko told senate officials that Twitter is misleading the public about their platform's security. He provided evidence of user data not being protected enough by the company because too many employees have access to it.
He mentioned how regulators and their imposed one-time fines do not prevent the company from mismanaging user data. Twitter remains unworried and continually breaches the codes of data protection.
Zatko said that Twitter's security standards are "a decade behind" and that the organization only cares about generating revenue over everything else. He caveat his testimony stating that he still believes that the scale and importance of Twitter's platform and service are good and meaningful.
When asked if he would purchase the company, Zatko laughed and said, "Depends on the price."
Peiter Zatko mentioned how Twitter employees raised concerns with him about ads from entities that may or may not be linked to the Chinese government.
This can potentially be a risk to national security. When he expressed these issues to Twitter executives, they told him that losing revenue from these entities would be problematic for the company. Zatko also mentioned that around 4,000 Twitter employees had access to private user data without any trace of access.
There was no accountability or system to log employees accessing user data. Private information like user email, IP address, phone number, type of device, browser, and location were all openly available.
Employees could potentially dox any Twitter user they wanted by posting their private information online. However, Zatko mentioned that he had not experienced this happening. He said that security was weak, which made it challenging to keep an eye on potential espionage.
A month prior to the testimony, Zatko had also mentioned that Twitter executives failed to disclose to the public that they believed agents from the Indian government had managed to land on the company payroll.
In any official sense, Mr. Zatko's testimony is not linked to the Musk deal. Nor does it connect to the latter's attempt to back out of buying the platform. The court proceedings between Twitter and Musk will officially commence in front of a Delaware state court in October.
Still, the whistleblower's accusation and testimony do not help Twitter's case in any way. Outside of his testimony, Peiter Zatko has supported Musk's claim that Twitter is riddled with more fake accounts and spam than it admits.
In April, Twitter agreed to sell to Elon Musk, but Musk alleged that Twitter misled him about the number of fake bot accounts and spam on the social network platform. By May, he said he did not want to proceed with the deal anymore.
Twitter has spent $33m on the Musk deal within three months and claims he cannot pull back from the deal anymore. Musk rejects Twitter's claim that less than 5 percent of their monetizable active users are fake or bots.
Musk had previously offered $44bn for the platform, and the current market value of Twitter is far less, around $32bn. The shareholder's recent vote gave Twitter executives the green light to take matters to court.
The court hearings in October will decide if Musk has to buy Twitter or not, but it seems that the Zatka testimony might be of some help to Musk. Recently, a judge revealed that the testimony is admissible in court, and Musk's lawyers could use it if they choose, despite it not having any bearing on the Musk deal.
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