September 15, 2022

A Twitter Whistleblower Tells All

The tech company’s former security chief had plenty to say about its lax security and disdain for its customers’ privacy.

There are reasons why Elon Musk is a multibillionaire, and we aren’t.

One of those reasons, Musk’s shrewd business sense, was playing out Tuesday during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings featuring Twitter’s former security chief and current whistleblower, Peiter Zatko, who told Congress that the social media company’s leadership is “misleading the public” and that its cybersecurity failures cause “real harm to real people.”

In addition, as the AP reports, Zatko said there was “at least one agent” from China’s intelligence service on Twitter’s payroll, “and that the company knowingly allowed India to add agents to the company roster as well, potentially giving those nations access to sensitive data about users.”

Zatko also told senators that Twitter is “plagued by weak cyber defenses that make it vulnerable to exploitation by ‘teenagers, thieves and spies’ and put the privacy of its users at risk.”

Other than that, though, what’s not to like? Especially if you might be legally bound to buy this dumpster fire of a tech firm for $44 billion?

Recall that back in April, Musk rocked the tech world when he announced his plan to buy Twitter. This made right-minded free-speech advocates giddy and leftist speech-suppressors furious, as both groups assumed that Musk would opt for liberty over tyranny, speech over censorship.

The deal fell through, though, as Musk soon demanded to know whether Twitter was accurately counting its active users — which would bear directly on the platform’s advertising rates — and charged that many of Twitter’s roughly 238 million daily users were fake or malicious accounts, also known as spam bots. At around the same time, the stock market began to tank, taking Twitter’s stock value with it. By then, Musk had seen enough.

Whether the Tesla CEO can find his way out of the deal has yet to be determined, but Twitter shareholders voted Tuesday in favor of carrying out Musk’s acquisition offer. As National Review reports, “The shareholders’ approval signals Twitter’s intent to move forward with the deal, even after Musk sent a third letter to the social media company on Friday attempting to terminate the deal.”

In any case, it’s likely that Musk will use Zatko’s testimony to his advantage — especially the former security chief’s allegation that Twitter wasn’t particularly interested in getting rid of the aforementioned bots.

As it stands, Musk is on the hook for $44 billion. And given that the company’s stock opened Tuesday at just under $41 per share, which is around 25% below the $54.20 per share he committed to pay to Twitter’s shareholders, the stakes are even higher.

The stakes for Big Tech are also high, especially if Democrats and Republicans can agree that reforms are needed. As Carnegie Mellon professor of digital media and marketing Ari Lightman notes: “We gave digital platforms so much autonomy at the beginning to grow and develop. Now we’re at a point where we’re, ‘Wait a minute … This has gotten out of hand.’”

Indeed, Big Tech has gotten out of hand. Take Facebook, for example. As the New York Post’s Miranda Devine reports, the company that helped Twitter rig the 2020 election for Joe Biden “has been spying on the private messages and data of American users and reporting them to the FBI if they express anti-government or anti-authority sentiments — or question the 2020 election.”

Given this sick state of affairs, we can’t blame Musk for wanting to stay as far away from Big Tech as possible.

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