Peter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former chief of security, has filed a 20-page complaint to the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) accusing Twitter of several major security flaws, misinforming shareholders, lying about bots, among other accusations.
Zatko was fired from Twitter in January, a move which he claims was made in retaliation to his unwillingness to neglect the complaints he is now making public. Meanwhile, a Twitter spokesperson told CNN that “Mr. Zatko was fired from his senior executive role at Twitter for poor performance and ineffective leadership.”
Zatko swears that his motives are “to improve the place”, which is what he was hired to do in the first place. By bringing these complaints public, he hopes that Twitter will finally take measures into fixing its major security flaws, at least according to his claims.
Parallel to this, however, the timing of these revelations greatly benefits an unexpected third party: Elon Musk.
Musk bid to acquire Twitter for $44 billion not long ago, but after allegedly signing the deal, decided to back out last-minute, which Twitter deemed to be breaking the terms of the agreement. Musk was very vocal that his reason for backing out was because of Twitter’s unwillingness to reveal data on spam and fake accounts, which they promised was 5% or less in total. By taking the case to court, Musk took to social media once again to brag that now, Twitter would be forced to reveal this information in court and in public.
Zatko and Musk have no direct relationship, but the timing of one certainly benefits the other, since Zatkos claims seem to back up what Musk was previously implying without evidence – that bot accounts couldn’t be only 5% of Twitter’s total accounts. Zatko says that the method Twitter uses to verify this data is purposefully misleading, and executives are heavily incentivized to boost user accounts by any means, including bots. This corroborates Musk’s accusation, but it’s worth noting that Zatko’s claims have not yet been proven to be true.
Among other claims shared by Zatko are that far too many low-level Twitter employees have access to the personal data of registered users (including phone numbers) and that thousands of laptops across the company contain the entire source code of the platform (which can be reverse-engineered to easily discover security flaws).
This also led to Twitter being unable to fully delete user data when requested because the data was spread across so many devices and systems that it became hard to track.
Zatko’s complaints are, however, completely separate from Elon Musk’s court case, meaning it cannot be used there. But public perception plays a big role and seeing as Elon Musk is among the top 10 most-followed people on Twitter, with over 100 million followers, he will certainly use the platform in his favor. He certainly hasn’t been shy about voicing his opinions in public before.