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Bombshell Twitter whistleblower complaint alleges company guilty of 'egregious deficiencies' regarding spam and security

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Nikolas Kokovlis/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Washington Post has released a new report alleging that Twitter executives deceived regulators and the company’s board of directors about “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in combatting hackers and spam.

The allegations come from Twitter’s former head of security Peiter Zatko, and a formal complaint was filed last month with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission.

The complaint claims that Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal was "lying" when he tweeted in May that Twitter was "strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can."

Zatko alleges Twitter prioritized user growth over reducing spam. According to the Post, Zatko’s complaint claims that executives could earn bonuses of up $10 million for increases in daily users, but no bonuses were awarded explicitly for cutting spam.

"I felt ethically bound. This is not a light step to take," said Zatko in reference to filing the complaint. Zatko was fired from Twitter in January.

The complaint also states that “about half of Twitter’s roughly 7,000 full-time employees had wide access to the company’s internal software and that access was not closely monitored, giving them the ability to tap into sensitive data and alter how the service worked,” writes the Post.

Twitter is the most used social media platform among journalists. The site has 238 million daily users, including government agencies, heads of state, and other influential public figures. Twitter has the email addresses and phone numbers of these figures, as well as political dissidents who communicate over the service “at great personal risk,” the Post notes.

Twitter has faced multiple complaints throughout its history over its treatment of sensitive data. Earlier this year, Twitter agreed to pay a $150 million fine to settle allegations that it deceptively used email addresses and phone numbers it had collected to target advertising.

“Security and privacy have long been top companywide priorities at Twitter,” said Twitter spokeswoman Rebecca Hahn in regards to the most recent complaint.

This news comes just one day after Elon Musk's legal team subpoenaed former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey as Twitter and Musk prepare for their upcoming trial regarding Musk’s attempt to back out of a $44 billion acquisition agreement.

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