The former head of Twitter’s security, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, claims that the social network’s Spaces feature is not well moderated. Zatko made the claim in an explosive whistleblower complaint first obtained by CNN and The Washington Post.
In the complaint, Zatko says that in December 2021, a Twitter executive falsely told staff and board members that the post was being moderated appropriately. However, Zatko says he found that “about half of the Spaces content flagged for review was in a language the moderators didn’t speak, and there was little to no moderation,” according to his July 6 whistleblower complaint, filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the Department of Justice.
The whistleblower complaint notes that, among other responsibilities, Zatko worked with Twitter Service, the company’s internal name for the division charged with the operational enforcement of global content moderation.
The complaint follows a notification from The Washington Post published last year that said Twitter knew that Spaces could be abused due to a lack of moderation. According to the report, employees who complained about the company’s lack of moderation were sidelined, as some questioned how the social network planned to ensure the offering wouldn’t turn into a platform for hate speech and incitement to violence.
The report said Twitter executives were aware of the potential for abuse but refused to delay the rollout, despite the feature being widely used by white nationalists, Taliban supporters and anti-vaccine activists who spread misinformation about COVID-19. place. Employees expressing concerns about Twitter’s plans to make Spaces more widely available were allegedly told that the technology needed to properly moderate Spaces did not exist and that the small number of human moderators were unable to listen to tens of thousands of conversations in multiple languages live.
Twitter launched its Clubhouse-esque Spaces feature in December 2020, as social audio steadily grew in popularity. Interest in social audio grew in popularity at the height of the pandemic as people around the world were confined to their homes. In October 2021, Twitter introduced the ability for anyone to host a Space, opening up the tool to all kinds of groups and people, despite a lack of proper moderation.
Zatko also accused his former employer of cybersecurity negligence. During his time with the company, Zatko says he witnessed “serious shortcomings, negligence, willful ignorance and threats to national security and democracy,” despite his attempts to flag security concerns with the Twitter board, which was ignored.
Twitter recruited Zatko, a renowned hacker and security researcher, in late 2020 after a breach that allowed hackers to very publicly hijack the Twitter accounts of high-profile accounts, including Joe Biden and Elon Musk.
Zatko was fired from the company in January 2022 along with CISO Rinki Sethi.
It’s worth noting that the complaint could affect Twitter’s ongoing legal battle with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is trying to get under a $44 billion deal to buy the social network. Zatko says Twitter executives lacked the resources to fully understand the true number of bots on the platform and were not motivated to do so.
Twitter spokesperson Madeline Broas told londonbusinessblog.com in a standard 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 story about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices, which are rife with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and in which there is no significant context.Mr. Zatko’s accusations and opportunistic timing appear to be designed to draw attention and harm Twitter, its customers and its shareholders. Security and privacy have long been and will remain company-wide priorities at Twitter.”