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Whistle-Blower Says Twitter ‘Chose to Mislead’ on Security Flaws

Twitter’s former top security official, who accused the company of misrepresenting its security practices, told lawmakers in a hearing on Tuesday that the site had compromised user data and exposed its internal workings to potential foreign agents, contributing to the threat of security. controversial social media service’s woes.

Peiter Zatko, who was Twitter’s top security official before he was fired in January, said the company was informed during his tenure that “at least one agent” from a Chinese intelligence agency was “on the payroll within Twitter”. He added that Twitter executives “chose to mislead the board of directors, shareholders, lawmakers and the public” about the security flaws rather than fix them.

Last month, a whistleblower complaint filed by Mr. Zatko with federal regulators was made public. In it, he accused the company of failing to guard against attacks and spam and of lying about its efforts.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which convened the hearing on Tuesday, expressed concern about Mr Zatko’s allegations. “Twitter has a responsibility to ensure that its data is protected and does not fall into the hands of foreign powers,” said Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the committee.

The testimony of Mr. Zatko is adding to the turmoil sweeping Twitter. The social media service is embroiled in a fight for survival with Tesla founder Elon Musk who agreed to buy Twitter for $44 billion in April before attempting to pull out of the deal. The company has insisted the purchase go through and has sued Mr. Musk, with a lawsuit on the matter set to begin next month. Later on Tuesday, Twitter shareholders are expected to vote to approve the deal.

Mr. Zatko’s allegations have become entangled in Mr. Musk and Twitter’s battle over the fate of the company. Mr. Musk’s lawyers seized Mr. Zatko’s statements to support their argument that Twitter misled the billionaire about the amount of spam accounts on the service.

Mr. Musk has claimed he should be able to stop the Twitter acquisition because the company downplayed the number of fraudulent accounts on the service. Zatko said in his complaint that Parag Agrawal, the CEO of Twitter, misled Musk after the billionaire expressed his concerns.

During the hearing, Mr. Grassley said that Mr. Agrawal “rejected this committee’s invitation by claiming it would jeopardize Twitter’s ongoing lawsuit with Mr. Musk.”

“Many of the allegations directly implicate Mr Agrawal and he should be here to address them,” Mr Grassley added.

This is a story in development and will be updated.

Kate Conger reporting contributed.