The former head of Twitter’s security, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko alleges that the social media Space features lack proper moderation.
According to TechCrunch, Zatko said this in an explosive whistleblower complaint obtained by CNN and The Washington Post.
Zatko in the complaint said an executive of Twitter erroneously told staff and board members in December 2021 that the Spaces feature was being properly moderated.
However, Zatko says he discovered that “about half of Spaces content flagged for review was in a language that the moderators did not speak, and there there was little to no moderation happening,” according to his whistleblower complaint dated July 6, filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.
The whistleblower complaint stated that Zatko worked with Twitter Service, the company’s internal name for the division tasked with operational enforcement of global content moderation, among other responsibilities.
Zatko’s whistleblower complaint came following a Washington Post published last year that Twitter knew its Spaces feature could be misused due to lack of moderation.
According to the report, employees who complained about the lack of moderation were sidelined by the company, as some worry how the social network platform plans to make sure the offering did not plunge into a platform for hate speech and calls to violence.
Despite the use by white nationalists, Taliban supporters and anti-vaccine activists posting COVID-19 misinformation, the report added that Twitter executives who are aware of the potential for abuse refused to slow the roll-out.
The employees who raised concern about Twitter’s plan to make Spaces globally available were allegedly informed that the technology needed to properly moderate Spaces is non-existence and its outnumbered moderator staff cannot listen to tens of thousands of conversations happening in real-time in multiple languages.
Following the increasing interest in social audio during the pandemic where people were confined to their houses, Twitter launched its Clubhouse-like Spaces features in December 2020
Deciding to reach more audience, Twitter in October 2021 allowed anyone to host a Space, which gave room for all sorts of groups and people to host a space despite lack of proper moderation.
Zatko also accused his former employer of cybersecurity negligence. During his time at the company, Zatko says he witnessed “egregious deficiencies, negligence, willful ignorance, and threats to national security and democracy,”
Zatko also accused his former employer of negligence in cybersecurity, where he alleges that during his time at the company, he witnessed “egregious deficiencies, negligence, willful ignorance, and threats to national security and democracy.”
He, however, stated that his attempts to flag the security lapses with Twitter’s board were ignored.
Zatko who is a renowned hacker and security researcher was recruited by Twitter in late 2020 after a security breach allowed hackers to hijack the Twitter accounts of high-profile accounts, including Joe Biden and Elon Musk.
Zatko was let go from the company in January 2022 along with CISO Rinki Sethi.
It’s worth noting that the complaint could impact Twitter’s ongoing legal fight with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is trying to get out of a $44 billion agreement to buy the social network.
Zatko says Twitter executives don’t have the resources to fully understand the true number of bots on the platform and weren’t motivated to do so.
Twitter spokesperson Madeline Broas told TechCrunch in a boilerplate statement: “Mr. Zatko was fired from his senior executive role at Twitter in January 2022 for ineffective leadership and poor performance. 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.”