Congress wants to hear what Twitter whistleblower has to say | Company

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. lawmakers are eager to hear from Twitter’s former security chief, who has alarmed Washington with allegations that the influential social network has misled regulators over its cyber defenses and efforts to police social media. fake accounts.

Leaders of several congressional panels are looking into disclosures by a respected cybersecurity expert Peiter Zatko, and the calls to the Capitol for more investigations. Zatko is due to testify next month in a Senate hearing.

In addition to notifying Congress, Zatko filed a complaint last month with the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. One of Zatko’s most serious accusations is that Twitter violated the terms of a 2011 FTC settlement by falsely claiming that it had stricter measures in place to protect the security and privacy of its users.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has asked the FTC to investigate.

“These disturbing revelations paint a picture of a company that has consistently and repeatedly prioritized profits over the safety of its users and its accountability to the public,” Blumenthal wrote to the FTC chairwoman, Lina Khan.

Twitter said Zatko’s complaint was “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacked important context.”

Zatko also accused the San Francisco-based company of deception involving its handling of “spam”, or fake accounts, an allegation that is at the heart of billionaire tycoon Elon Musk’s case. attempt to renege on its $44 billion deal to buy Twitter.

The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday that Zatko will testify at a hearing on Sept. 13 — the same day Twitter shareholders are due to vote on Musk’s pending takeover of the company. Twitter’s Board of Directors Recommends Approval of Takeover.

A trial on Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk to force it to complete the acquisition is scheduled for October.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and his top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said in a joint statement Wednesday that if Zatko’s claims are accurate, “they could show dangerous data privacy”. and security risks for Twitter users around the world.”

They said the panel will “investigate this matter further with a full committee hearing … and take further action as necessary to get to the bottom of these alarming allegations.”

The second questions Twitter on how it counts fake accounts on its platform. In June, securities regulators questioned the company about its methodology for calculating the number of fake or spam accounts and “the underlying judgments and assumptions used by management.” Numbers are key to Twitter’s business because it uses them to attract advertisers, whose payments make up just over 90% of its revenue.

Twitter, with around 238 million daily active users, said last month that it deletes 1 million spam accounts a day.

Senior officials from the Senate Intelligence and Commerce Committees, as well as the House Energy and Commerce Panel, have also publicly signaled their engagement on the issue. The Senate Intelligence Committee is planning a meeting with Zatko to discuss his allegations, a spokeswoman said, adding, “We take this matter seriously.”

With the midterm elections looming in early November, many lawmakers may wish to appear in front of television cameras to express concern about online privacy, an issue that resonates with consumers. It means the camera lights are glaring and outrage rumbles from elected officials as a lone whistleblower rises and takes his oath from behind a table surrounded by a mosh pit of photographers – a scene believed to mirror the testimony of the former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen at the end of last year.

Haugen’s condemnation of the company and its allegation that it prioritized profits over platform security was backed up by a slew of internal Facebook documents. Zatko’s complaint, on the other hand, appears to be self-contained, although there may be references to other documents in the unredacted version of the complaint. The Associated Press was only able to see a redacted version.

Other possible witnesses at the congressional hearings could include former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and current CEO Parag Agrawal.

Zatko’s lawyers say that in late 2021, after Twitter’s board received ‘whitewashed’ information about security issues, Zatko escalated concerns, ‘collided’ with Agrawal and board member Omid Kordestani, and was fired two weeks later.

The Twitter debacle has raised hopes among some lawmakers that it could give a boost to comprehensive data privacy legislation, which has stalled for years but recently cleared a key House committee – bringing it closer than ever to final adoption. It was, however, stalled in the Senate.

Rep. Frank Pallone, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and his top Republican, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, released a joint statement saying the panel is “actively considering the whistleblower’s disclosure on Twitter and assess next steps.”

“There are still a lot of unknowns and questions that need to be answered,” they said. “Many of these allegations, if true, are alarming and reaffirm the need for Congress to pass comprehensive national consumer privacy legislation to protect Americans’ online data.”

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Follow Marcy Gordon on https://twitter.com/mgordonap

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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