Elon Musk cites Twitter whistleblower as new reason to kill deal


Ex-head of security alleges platform didn’t know how many accounts were spam or bots

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Elon Musk has cited the recent accusations from a Twitter Inc. whistleblower as a new reason to terminate the US$44-billion takeover of the social media platform.

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Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s ex-head of security, claimed he raised questions about severe shortcomings in the social media company’s handling of users’ personal data, including running out-of-date software and that executives had withheld information about breaches and lack of protections for user data.

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In a filing on Tuesday, lawyers on behalf of Musk said the allegations by Zatko, including “egregious deficiencies” in the platform’s defences against hackers and privacy issues, meant that Twitter had breached the conditions in the merger agreement.

Lawyers for both Musk and Twitter have subpoenaed Zatko, who also said the social-media platform’s officials didn’t know or care to find out how many accounts were spam or robot accounts.

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Musk is seeking testimony from Zatko to bolster his legal argument he can walk away from Twitter, which sued Musk in July to force him to complete his proposed acquisition. Since then, more than 100 people, banks, funds and other firms have been subpoenaed in the Delaware suit, with a trial scheduled to begin Oct. 17.

A Twitter spokesperson could not be reached for comment. The company has previously called Zatko’s complaint “a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context.”

Musk sent a letter in July claiming that the company’s inability to prove how many bots and spam accounts were on its service was a reason to back out of the deal.

The new findings add to his claim, according to the letter published Tuesday, showing that Twitter is in “material noncompliance” with obligations around data privacy and consumer protection laws and that the company is vulnerable to data centre failures and malicious actors.




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