What claims has the Twitter whistleblower made?
According to a whistleblower disclosure to US regulators, a former top Twitter executive claims that the Indian government “forced” Twitter to employ people who were “government agents” and who had access to a lot of user data on the social media network.
The accusations have surfaced while Twitter and the Ministry of Electronics and IT are engaged in a legal dispute over the latter’s content restriction orders.
Pieter ‘Mudge’ Zatko, a former head of safety at Twitter, filed a lawsuit with the US Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that the firm failed to disclose to users that the executive team felt the Indian government had been successful in hiring agents. An “Indian government agent [to have] direct unsupervised access to the company’s systems and user data,” he claimed, was something that the company had “knowingly” allowed.
According to Zatko’s complaint,
“the threat of harm to Twitter employees was sufficient to cause Twitter to seriously consider complying with foreign government requests that Twitter would otherwise fundamentally oppose”
in nations where Twitter needed to have a physical presence and full-time employees.
Moreover, he stated that the governments of Russia, Nigeria, and India “tried, with varying degrees of success, to compel Twitter to hire local FTEs (full-time employees) that might be used as leverage.”
Before joining Twitter, Mudge held leadership positions at Google and Stripe, and the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), where he received the highest accolade offered to civilian, non-career personnel.
MeitY announced the Information Technology Rules, 2021, in February of last year.
These regulations required social media corporations to hire important employees, or “nodal officers,” whose primary responsibility it was to serve as a point of contact for law enforcement agencies in their investigations.
The businesses too had to utilize a compliance officer to guarantee that the rules complied and a grievance officer to handle client concerns.
Zatko’s charges that Twitter locked in a “government specialist” may or may not be associated with the IT Rules, 2021 specialists that Twitter was required to enlist. Zatko claimed that US insights had been given proof to back this claim.
How has Twitter reacted to this?
In an explanation, a Twitter agent uncovered that Zatko was sacked from his post within the firm in January 2022 for “ineffective administration and destitute performance”.
“What we’ve seen so far is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security standards that is rife with contradictions and falsehoods and lacks crucial context,” the company said.
Mr. Zatko’s accusations and shrewd timing seem to be intended to garner attention and hurt Twitter, its users, and its stockholders. The business representative stated that security and privacy have historically been top considerations at Twitter and will remain so.
How might the new information affect Twitter’s ongoing legal proceedings?
The discoveries come at a time when Twitter is entangled in two high-profile legitimate fights: one with the Indian government over a few of its substance sifting orders and another with Tesla CEO Elon Musk over his endeavor to back out of his $44 billion bargain to purchase the social media company.
Last month, Twitter petitioned the Karnataka High Court to reverse the government’s decision to remove 39 connections.
According to Twitter, the blocking orders were not subject to any legal restrictions.
Twitter has also filed a lawsuit against Musk for seeking to back out of the purchase agreement.
Notably, Musk has claimed in this court action that the business’ choice to contest MeitY’s blocking orders was a “departure from the customary practice” and put its Indian operations “in jeopardy.”
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