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Whistleblower Reports Twitter is ‘Dependent’ on China, Overrun by Bots
The Mudge Report
A sweeping whistleblower complaint filed last week by Twitter’s former head of security, renowned hacker Peter “Mudge” Zatko, paints a damning picture of a company characterized by “egregious deficiencies, negligence, willful ignorance, and threats to national security and democracy.” The report has prompted inquiries by the governments of the United States and several EU nations.
According to Mudge’s report, even though Twitter is blocked in China, the company is “dependent upon revenue coming from Chinese entities.” Twitter executives understood this was a major ethical violation but told Mudge the company was “too dependent upon the revenue stream at this point to do anything other than attempt to increase it.”
According to cybersecurity experts, the report indicates that Twitter’s financial arrangements with Chinese advertisers might even allow them to obtain the contact information of dissidents who’d logged into the platform using VPNs.
Mudge identified at least one Twitter employee working for a foreign intelligence service. This comes shortly after another former Twitter employee was found guilty of spying on Saudi dissidents on behalf of the Saudi Crown Prince, one of Twitter’s largest shareholders.
The Mudge report is particularly blistering in its indictment of Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, whom Mudge recounts as having knowingly presented false documents and made false statements to the company’s board of directors and to the public on multiple occasions. Agrawal even suggested the company should engage in censorship and surveillance on behalf of Putin’s regime in Russia.
Contrary to Agrawal’s public statements, Twitter executives had “little or no personal incentive” to measure or monitor the number of bots on the platform. In fact, the reverse was true: “senior management had no appetite to properly measure the prevalence of bot accounts—because as Mudge later learned from a different sensitive source, they were concerned that if accurate measurements ever became public, it would harm the image and valuation of the company.”
Senior executives were instead compensated solely based on Twitter’s number of monetizable daily active users which, perversely, might even increase with the number of bots.
Mudge had been hired as Twitter’s head of security in part at the behest of founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey, who earlier this year described Twitter’s board as “having consistently been the dysfunction of the company.” Mudge found Jack to be in a state of extreme withdrawal throughout his time at Twitter.
According to the Mudge report, in 2021, Twitter employed just two employees to identify misinformation across all realms of human knowledge. For the many users, like myself, who’ve been banned from Twitter, the Mudge report raises even more questions. Twitter’s bans are notoriously opaque, but in theory they could be coming from a few different sources: 1. algorithms, 2. brigades of antagonistic user reports, 3. action by one of Twitter’s two misinformation employees, 4. bribery or abuse of these systems by hostile regimes, or 5. extralegal collusion with the federal government, which a rapidly growing body of evidence has shown is taking place.
Accordingly, there are legitimate concerns as to what the federal government actually intends to do with Mudge’s report. In truly Orwellian fashion, democratic governments, particularly on the political left, have historically cited the pervasiveness of foreign bots to justify the censorship of well-qualified citizens for legal speech at home—a delightful arrangement for Xi Jinping, particularly during the response to Covid.
Still, that’s no fault of Mudge, whose non-partisan report is arguably the most clear-eyed glimpse into the dysfunctional inner workings of Twitter to date. Previously, there were only rumors and circumstantial evidence of CCP influence at Twitter. The Mudge report provides hard evidence that this influence is, in fact, taking place.
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