many silicon Valley’s most ferocious regulator on Capitol Hill is now roaring. The arrest testimony of former Twitter security chief Peiter “Mudge” Zatko yesterday has lawmakers on both sides redouble their efforts to rein in the tech giant.
Zatko’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee follows a detailed report to the Justice Department, Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission late last month. His allegations were the central theme of yesterday’s hearing, ranging from claims of lax security protocols to negligent leadership — all of which Twitter denied.
Even as the senators boil over – I’m guessing they’re not fans of Twitter’s 4,000 or so employees who have easy access to their accounts and millions of others, as Zatko claims – there’s an update in the air in the capital. Feel.
“That was interesting,” Republican Senator Mike Lee told Wired after the hearing.
The anger that veiled in euphoria was partly because many senators felt they had now found well-known hard evidence.
“My guess is that this testimony today will spark a lot of class actions,” Sen. John F. Kennedy of Louisiana said Tuesday after questioning witnesses. “And it should.”
The GOP is referring to Zatko’s allegations that the social media platform lacks basic security measures, such as tracking which of the company’s hundreds of engineers make changes within the platform. According to Zatko, this includes the potential mining of the US senator’s own account.
“I’m assuming they have,” Kennedy said.
Hence the roar. Like the rest of us, U.S. senators protect their private data. There is a growing consensus in Washington that the FTC is not suited to take on the social media giants, which, according to Zatko, laughed off the $150 million fine and all the FTC’s demands on bad tech players.
“Maybe all that’s going to be done is hand it over to private litigants,” said Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri. “Litigation is a powerful thing, so maybe it’s like, we let people who are attacked And hacked people and so on — we give them the power to go to court. And then you’ll find out.”
While the senators plan to call on Twitter officials to testify — possibly aided by subpoenas — in response to allegations by their former executives, they don’t appear to be waiting either. Senator Hawley is now trying to breathe new life into his out-of-the-box proposal to transfer the FTC’s technology portfolio to the Justice Department, though he is open to many of the reform ideas circulating around Washington.
Hawley and outspoken South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham renewed their call for the repeal of Section 230, a law passed by Congress in the internet’s infancy that protects online companies from certain types of lawsuits over content users post on their platforms.
“You have to empower people. Obviously, money doesn’t matter to them. Losing the ability to operate matters,” Graham said. “So if you get permission, you might lose something.”