Elon Musk vs Twitter: Are the whistleblower revelations a game-changer?

Twitter’s former security chief, Peiter Zatko, has decided to denounce certain practices of the company to the American authorities. Some of the alleged facts correspond to the accusations of Elon Musk, in lawsuit with Twitter, which he no longer wishes to redeem.

Elon Musk has been rather cheerful since Tuesday August 23, 2022. The billionaire have fun sharing excerpts from the article washington post source of revelations about “Twitter lies”. The newspaper, which Elon Musk generally criticizes (it belongs to Jeff Bezos, his lifelong rival), revealed the existence of a complaint written by Peiter Zatko, the ex-Twitter security manager fired in January 2022 (it had arrived at the end of 2020). The whistleblower calls into question the social network, which he accuses of serious breaches vis-à-vis the security of its users. His complaint is addressed to the American authorities, who will investigate Twitter.

For Elon Musk, this case falls at an ideal time. The boss of Tesla and SpaceX is due to face the company in court on October 17, after promising to buy them out and then changing his mind. Can Peiter Zatko’s revelations benefit him?

What are the charges against Twitter?

Called as a savior by Jack Dorsey in 2020 after a social network hack, Peiter Zatko is a respected cybersecurity researcher, himself a hacker. In his complaint, he denounces many facts such as:

  • The fact that Twitter uses outdated servers that are easy to hack.
  • The fact that internal software, used by thousands of employees, provides access to confidential information.
  • The fact that Twitter has let foreign governments access this software, often through spies.
  • The fact that Twitter does not voluntarily combat the proliferation of fake accounts, which brings money to its management (there would be bonuses for new accounts).

A first victory for the image of Elon Musk

Until now, Elon Musk was not really unanimous. His behavior with Twitter, which has everything of a whim, was particularly decried. Elon Musk did everything to force Twitter to accept his takeover offer before publicly criticizing the company, challenging the figures transmitted to him and announcing that he had changed his mind. Its offer of 44 billion dollars had however been accepted by Twitter, which does not digest the fact of having been tricked and wishes to force the sale in court.

Let’s be clear: nothing says that Peiter Zatko’s revelations are true. The timing of their release is also amazing. One may wonder why say all this now, at the dawn of a probably historic trial. Be that as it may, these revelations already have a first immediate effect: they make the affair less Manichean. In the minds of those who know her, it’s no longer the poor Twitter against the evil Elon Musk, but a more complex subject. Doubt is allowed: what if Elon Musk was right?

But not necessarily impact on the trial

To find out if the whistleblower’s revelations can help Elon Musk, we will have to wait until the start of the trial on October 17. Until now, the judge of the Delaware Court of Justice has been very firm vis-à-vis Elon Musk, refusing to give in to his whims. She told him repeatedly that this trial was not that of “false accounts”, but that of the abortive takeover of Twitter. The judge wants to know if Elon Musk should keep his commitments and does not give importance to the potential lies mentioned by Elon Musk and his lawyers.

However, in the meantime, the Delaware Court of Justice has accepted several requests from Elon Musk who wanted to access confidential documents belonging to Twitter. The billionaire also wants to summon Jack Dorsey, the founder of the social network, to obtain evidence on the lies of the social network. If the Pieter Zatko case is highly publicized in the coming days, then it is hard to imagine the Delaware Court of Justice ignoring these issues.

Musk Elon
Elon Musk. // Source: Bill Ingalls

A question then arises: if Twitter has indeed deliberately lied about the number of fake accounts on its platform, can Elon Musk have his offer canceled and request financial compensation from the social network? If justice considers these lies a hidden problem (and obtains evidence), then it is not impossible that it will give reason to Elon Musk. Otherwise, it could also say that Elon Musk knowingly bought and therefore not consider these elements as an admissible element.

How will this case end? The reaction of the American authorities, expected in the next few days, should already tell us more about the importance given to these revelations. In the meantime, Elon Musk’s lawyers have already indicated that they want to meet Peiter Zatko, after considering having him testify before he becomes a whistleblower.

Leave a Comment