Elon Musk subpoenas Twitter whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko ahead of trial

Elon Musk’s legal team is demanding to hear from Twitter’s whistleblowing former security chief, who could help bolster Musk’s case for backing out of a $44 billion deal to buy the social media company.

Former Twitter executive Peiter Zatko — also known by his hacker handle “Mudge” — received a subpoena Saturday from Musk’s team, according to Zatko’s lawyer and court records. 

The billionaire Tesla CEO has spent months alleging that the company he agreed to acquire undercounted its fake and spam accounts — and that he shouldn’t have to consummate the deal as a result. He has also subpoenaed his friend and former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. 

Twitter has sued Musk in Delaware’s Court of Chancery in an effort to force him to complete the deal, which was reached in April. The company says Musk has operated in bad faith and is deliberately trying to tank the deal because market conditions have deteriorated and the acquisition no longer serves his interests.

Zatko’s whistleblower complaint to U.S. officials alleging Twitter misled regulators about its privacy and security protections — and its ability to detect and root out fake accounts — might play into Musk’s hands in the upcoming trial scheduled for Oct. 17 in Delaware.

Zatko served as Twitter’s head of security until he was fired early this year. His complaint accuses Twitter of “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in its security, privacy and content moderation practices. He also contends executives lied to federal regulators about the strength of the company’s security plan, which it is required to have under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.


Former Twitter security chief alleges reckless policies

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Twitter took issue with his claims when news of the complaint was made public, saying that Zatko was fired “for poor performance and ineffective leadership.”

“What we’ve seen so far is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context. Mr. Zatko’s allegations and opportunistic timing appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on Twitter, its customers and its shareholders. Security and privacy have long been company-wide priorities at Twitter and will continue to be,” the company said in a statement.

Attorneys for Zatko called Twitter’s statement about his performance “false,” noting that he had “repeatedly raised concerns about Twitter’s grossly inadequate information security systems to the Company’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors throughout his tenure.”  

Irina Ivanova contributed reporting. 



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