What comes after the Twitter whistleblower
Illustration: The Washington Post via Getty Images; Protocol

What comes after the Twitter whistleblower

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Good morning! Twitter’s reeling in the wake of yesterday’s whistleblower complaint about the company misleading the FTC and misrepresenting security flaws to its board, among other things. Where does it go from here?

What happens next at Twitter

There’s one thing we know for certain about Peiter “Mudge” Zatko’s bombshell whistleblower complaint against Twitter: It raises a ton of questions for everyone already keeping a close eye on the company, from Elon Musk to regulators. So many questions.

What do the allegations mean for Musk’s acquisition? Zatko accuses Twitter of “lying about bots to Elon Musk” and claims that a senior executive tried to shut down a tool for quashing bot and spam accounts. At the very least, it’s giving Musk more ammunition in his court battle with Twitter.

  • Zatko alleges that Twitter doesn’t have incentive to count the actual number of spam and bot accounts, which could raise questions about Twitter’s claim that bots and spam make up less than 5% of monetized accounts.
  • Twitter stood by that count in comments it made to The Washington Post. It also told employees yesterday it’ll combine the teams focused on spam and bots, Reuters reported.
  • Experts told WaPo that Zatko’s accusation isn’t backed by concrete evidence. For instance, it doesn’t prove that Twitter intentionally lied about the number of bots.
  • But the accusations could still give Musk a reason to further challenge Twitter as he attempts to back out of the deal. He tweeted a portion of the report highlighting the claim that the prevalence of spam was shared with Twitter’s board, adding that “the board chose not disclose that to the public.”

What about regulators? Zatko filed the complaint with the SEC, Justice Department and the FTC, and there’s something in the complaint for everyone.

  • The FTC will be interested in Zatko’s allegation that Twitter didn’t comply with a 2011 settlement with the commission for risking user privacy, Protocol’s Issie Lapowsky told us. The FTC already fined Twitter for violating that settlement in May.
  • The SEC will likely look into claims that Twitter made misrepresentations to the board, shareholders and Musk. Zatko claimed, for example, that a presentation for CEO Parag Agrawal’s first full board meeting was “deeply misleading.”
  • Issie said the DOJ will want to know more about Twitter allegedly hiring agents of foreign governments and giving them access to sensitive data.

And what about Twitter’s security? Zatko paints Twitter as a cybersecurity nightmare.

  • Zatko claims he warned Twitter that more than half of its 500,000 data center servers were running out-of-date software just to keep the company running, which left the platform open to “all manner of attackers” Protocol’s Tom Krazit told us.
  • Zatko also claims that Twitter is riddled with internal security flaws, revealing the company’s seeming indifference to pitfalls that could leave internal systems vulnerable to hackers.

Agrawal has so far responded by going on the offensive, telling employees that Zatko is “inaccurately portraying” aspects of his work; that the complaint lacks “important context”; and that Zatko was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance.”

That’s a message Agrawal will likely have to repeat a lot in the coming months in Washington, on Wall Street and in Delaware’s Court of Chancery, as Twitter tries to explain itself to the government, its investors, its users and its would-be owner.

— Nat Rubio-Licht and Sarah Roach

When is it time to go home?

Leaving home can be difficult, and it certainly was for Brad D. Smith, the former CEO of Intuit. He left his small West Virginia hometown in search of economic opportunities after graduating from Marshall University. But after a 36-year Silicon Valley career, Smith decided to go back, give back and lead his alma mater. “I want to serve the next generation and help them understand that they and their peers can do amazing things right here in West Virginia,” Smith told Protocol’s Hirsh Chitkara.

Read the full interview about how he made the decision here.

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People are talking

Huawei’s Ren Zhengfei said the company shouldn’t try to scale during a recession:

  • "With survival the main principle, marginal businesses will be shrunken and closed, and the chill will be felt by everyone.”

Coinbase’s Brian Armstrong can’t guarantee that layoffs will be a one-time thing:

  • “I can’t tell you what the world’s going to be like a year from now.”

Atom Bank's Anne-Marie Lister said the four-day workweek is the "the future of working life":

  • “We hope Atom’s experiences will encourage more businesses to make the shift permanently.”

Making moves

Mishi Choudhary is Virtu’s new SVP and general counsel. Choudhary’s been a legal representative for open-source developers including the Free Software Foundation.

Peter Eliades joined Floating Point Group as head of distribution. Eliades is a former JP Morgan and Wells Fargo exec.

Adam Curry is Bluon’s new SVP of software and data. Curry was a researcher at Princeton University before joining the company.

Raji Subramanian is Opendoor’s new CTO. Subramanian was the co-founder of Pro.com, which Opendoor acquired, and worked in several departments at Amazon before that.

Wendy Steinle joined Domo as CMO. Steinle spent six years at Adobe, where she led the company's go-to-market strategy.

In other news

Plex is facing a potential data breach. The company sent a letter to affected users saying a third-party got access to some data, including emails, usernames and encrypted passwords.

Packable is liquidating, according to CNBC. Just last year, the Amazon seller parent company was preparing to go public via a SPAC.

Lyft is cutting down on office space. The company plans to sublease parts of its offices in San Francisco, New York, Nashville and Seattle as it goes remote-first, Bloomberg reported.

Adam Neumann’s new startup looks very similar to Alfred, a company he invested in a couple years ago. But sources told Forbes that he distanced himself from the company before introducing Flow.

JD.com posted its slowest growth on record, even though it got a boost in June from China’s “618” holiday.

The Department of Labor is probing travel startup Pollen over allegations that employee wages haven’t been paid for weeks.

France is paying people to trade their cars for e-bikes, giving them as much as a 4,000-euro subsidy each toward a new ride.

Celsius sued a former investment manager for allegedly stealing millions in assets before the company went bankrupt.

Bay Area voice tech startup Sanas wants to make call center workers sound more “American.” “We don't foresee anything bad coming out of this,” the company’s president told SFGate, which is obviously never a bad sign.

A different way to hire your next exec

Recruiting execs is a tough task, and it’s only getting harder as the fight for experienced talent becomes more competitive. To make the search for the right executive easier, you might want to think about what you’re looking for through a different lens: Consider exactly what risks your company faces and determine the skills needed to face those risks, HackerRank co-founder and CEO Vivek Ravisankar told Protocol Workplace reporter Allison Levitsky. That can help narrow down the search for people at other companies who have experience with your company’s challenges, rather than just looking at people with broadly similar experience.

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Have a good day — see you tomorrow!

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