“If what Zatko claims is true, then Twitter has violated users’ trust and deceived the Federal Trade Commission and its directors,” said Bot Sentinel’s Christopher Bouzy, in an analysis of Twitter data this week. access is threatened with deletion. As for the timing of the warning, which would limit Bouzy’s collection of data on deactivated and suspended accounts that hasn’t been an issue for the past four years, “I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Bouzy said. Twitter spokeswoman Lindsay McCallum-Rémy said the account cited was “for violating our Developer Policy,” was the result of a routine review.
Whether the allegations are true is the key question. Zatko was fired in January 2022 for “poor leadership and poor performance,” McCallum-Rémy said. In response to the allegations, McCallum-Rémy said: “So far, what we’ve seen is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistent and inaccurate information and lacks significant context. Mr. Zatko’s allegations and opportunistic timing appear to be designed to attract attention and cause harm to Twitter, its customers and shareholders. Security and privacy have long been and continue to be Twitter’s company-wide priorities.”
No matter how important the blockbuster may seem, the fact that this claim is now surfacing shouldn’t be a huge surprise. “Concealment allegations are a common basis for fraud claims,” said Adam C. Pritchard, a law professor at the University of Michigan who specializes in corporate and securities law. “In this case, Musk has an opportunity to argue that even with due diligence, he would not have discovered the issue.”
Pritchard believes the circumstances surrounding these revelations played a role in Musk’s hands. “It made it easier for him to argue that it was a significant adverse change, rather than a topic he dropped when he dropped due diligence,” he said. “As always, it’s all about negotiating leverage, which gives Musk more leverage.”
For Bouzy, it looks clear. “I believe Elon Musk will use this latest news in court to prove that Twitter executives misled him,” he said. “I’m not a lawyer, but if the allegations are true, I don’t think the court would force Musk to buy Twitter.”
Paul Fisher, who teaches negotiation at Saïd Business School at Oxford University, is not a lawyer either. But he thinks the acquisition is now a foregone conclusion — not in the way Twitter wants. “I think that’s likely to give Musk the outlet he wants,” he said. “In any negotiation, especially when it involves the sale or purchase of an asset, transparency and access to all material information that could affect the price are paramount. In many cases, if the buyer determines at the time of the transaction that such representations are untrue , the buyer may be entitled to terminate the agreement or affirmatively seek significant compensation from the seller.”
McCallum-Rémy declined to comment on how the revelations would affect the Musk takeover court case or how Twitter plans to respond.
“I think Twitter is just going to stand their ground,” Dahl said. “But they have to start showing some evidence that they are trying to do something about it and that the deal is in good faith.”