Twitter, Musk Subpoena Whistleblower Over Bot, Security Issues

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Twitter, Elon Musk both subpoena whistleblower Pieter ‘Mudge’ Zatko over allegations of security and bot shortcomings as well as ‘illegal activity’

Twitter and Elon Musk have both subpoenaed whistleblower Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s former head of security, in their upcoming lawsuit over Musk’s aborted $44 billion (£38bn) attempt to buy the company.

Zatko, known as “Mudge” in computer security circles, accused the firm of “material misrepresentation and omissions” about its security and privacy protections in a federal whistleblower complaint that came to light last week.

Twitter has strongly rejected the claims and has said security and privacy are “company-wide priorities”.

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Image credit: SpaceX

Spam accounts

Musk is seeking information about the way Twiter measures spam accounts, as well as attempts to hide security weaknesses and “Twitter’s engagement in any unlawful activity”, according to a Monday court filing.

The subpoenas from Musk and Twitter both request information about false or spam accounts on the platform, a key issue cited by Musk in his decision to walk away from the acquisition.

The company’s request also covers documents relating to his departure from the company and to his purchase or sale of Twitter securities.

The subpoena requires Zatko to produce sourcing for his claims that he made Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and other executives aware of his concerns, including the prevalence of bot or spam accounts on the platform.

‘Unlawful activity’

Like Musk, Twitter is also seeking documentation related to Zatko’s allegations of “Twitter’s engagement in any unlawful activity”, as well as information “regarding foreign intelligence service agents employed at Twitter”.

Zatko is scheduled to testify before Congress in September, a month before the trial of Musk and the social media company begins in Delaware Chancery Court on 17 October.