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Twitter Says Its Multimillion-Dollar Payout to Whistleblower Shouldn’t Affect Deal With Elon Musk

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at FSU chapter.

The Elon Musk vs. Twitter feud has been a prevalent dispute in the media for the past several months, and the spectacle has only become flashier. Indications of a relationship between the famed platform and Musk arose in January when Musk began purchasing shares of Twitter stock nearly every day.

After talks of Musk joining the Board were quickly shot down, on April 14, he made an offer to buy the company for $54.20 per share, making it a $44 billion deal. However, three months after the offer was accepted, their relationship became a bit rocky as Musk and his team began to investigate Twitter’s claim that less than 5% of their accounts are fake and spam. 

On July 8, Musk and his legal team announced that they planned to walk away from the deal. Twitter’s board responded with plans to seek legal action to enforce the original agreement. Twitter proceeded to sue Musk, and Musk then countersued them for their operation and “scheme to mislead investors about the company’s prospects,” alleging that the numbers are even higher than they disclosed.

Then came the whistleblower. On Aug. 23, the Washington Post published an 84-paged complaint from the former hacker and security chief of Twitter, Peiter Zatko. In the complaint, Zatko, who goes by the pseudonym “Mudge,” accuses Twitter of lying to Elon Musk about spam accounts on their site. He also discloses examples of poor security risks and practices by the company. 

“It doesn’t matter who has keys if you don’t have any locks on the doors,” Zatko said. “It’s not far-fetched to say an employee inside the company could take over the accounts of all senators in this room.”

Zatko testified before Congress, saying Twitter was “a decade behind industry security standards,” in his opening statement. “Twitter in 2020 internally assessed that they lost information on 200 million users for email addresses, phone numbers, other information that you need in order to start taking over other people’s account.”

“With your phone number and an email address, I can hijack your phone number. I can then change your Gmail, your Coinbase, your Ameritrade, your other accounts. I can cause financial harm that way. I can then assume your identity. But more importantly, I want to be able to understand your whereabouts, your network,” Zatko continued.

Twitter quickly refuted these claims. A Twitter spokesperson says the claims are “riddled with inaccuracies” and that Zatko was fired for “ineffective leadership and poor performance.”

Zatko also revealed that Twitter agreed to pay him a seven-million-dollar settlement for lost compensation. Musk’s legal team appears to have found a way to use the whistleblower allegations potentially to their advantage, sending a letter to Twitter that cites the multimillion-dollar payment to Zatko as a violation of the terms of the deal. 

Twitter denies these claims and stands strong in its argument that there was no breach of any of its representations or obligations under the agreement. 

Meanwhile, Twitter shareholders voted and approved on Tuesday, Sept. 13 in favor of Musk’s $44 billion takeover offer. Musk’s acquisition offer was $54.20 per share, which is far higher than the current share price of roughly $42. Meaning Twitter will now try to force Elon Musk to buy the company in the courts. If Musk loses the court battle, he could now be forced to purchase Twitter, even if he does not wish to do so.

Twitter and Musk will go to trial on Oct. 17 unless they reach a settlement beforehand. 

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Jillian is currently attending Florida State University and majoring in editing, writing, and media. Her interests include reading, movies/tv shows, music, cooking, writing, and more! She loves Taylor Swift and Ben Platt, and of course Her Campus. Contact: Instagram: jilliankaplann Snapchat: jilliankaplan7