Twitter's former security chief: millions of bots are "part of the median user’s experience"

Peiter Zatko reports "extreme, egregious deficiencies" to the SEC. His revelations could be key in the 'Elon Musk case'.

Peiter Zatko, Twitter's former chief security officer, has alleged in a report to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that under his tenure he discovered "extreme, egregious deficiencies by Twitter in every area of his mandate." These deficiencies are related to user privacy and security, platform integrity and content moderation.

Twitter, by the way, has said that they will protect the electoral process in November...

Zatko's explosive revelations could affect Twitter's ongoing legal battle with entrepreneur Elon Musk. The creator of Tesla and SpaceX offered to buy the company for $44 billion, but pulled out when he felt that Twitter had not provided him with the data he needed to know how many of the users were bots. Twitter then took Musk to court to force him to comply with its offer.

Millions of phantom accounts

The reason that Zatko's statement may influence the trial is that part of his complaint refers to the number of daily, active, monetizable Twitter users, internally referred to as mDAU: "There are many millions of active accounts that are not considered ‘mDAU,’ either because they are spam bots, or because Twitter does not believe it can monetize them." Zatko adds that "these millions of non-mDAU accounts are part of the median user’s experience on the platform."

The company fired Peiter Zatko earlier this year. He has reacted to the news of the former employee's allegations by saying that he was fired "for exercising ineffective leadership and having a poor track record." On the other hand, he has criticized Zatko's writing for being "riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and largely lacking in context." It recently came to light that a Twitter security breach exposed 5.5 million users.

Peiter Zatko is one of the most recognized experts in the world in cybersecurity. He has been employed by Stripe, the Google unit of Alphabet Inc., as well as the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa).