March 24, 2023

There is a common misconception among criminals that it is not a crime if you are not caught. Most law-abiding citizens, however, would argue that being caught is not the reason for the crime, but that the crime was committed before it was committed.

Likewise, many companies may not consider the seriousness of an internal problem until a whistleblower brings it to the world’s attention. This is certainly the case with Twitter, according to a 200-page whistleblower disclosure.

As previously reported, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko filed disclosures with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Department of Justice (DoJ) in July.

In this case, experts now say the finding isn’t entirely unexpected or shocking.

“A complex social media company the size of Twitter is doomed to fail,” explains James Bailey, a professor of leadership at the University of London. George Washington University School of Business“It’s a fairly new industry. Internally, regulating Twitter is out of the question. There are too many decisions to make and no precedent. Whether it’s data security or content presentation, it’s a normal evolutionary process.”

Key allegations including cybersecurity concerns

From what we now know, Zatko’s whistleblower complaint includes two main allegations, including that the service must have underestimated spam and bot accounts. It garnered the most public attention, largely because of Elon Musk’s takeover offer.

Dr. Christopher White, an assistant professor in the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Program, said: “The claim that Twitter is flooded with bot accounts and interactions that distort the actual value provided by companies is supported by these allegations.” Virginia Commonwealth University Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. “And the claim that the company just doesn’t care about reducing bot visits is particularly good for Musk.

While the problem with the robot is serious, “this is the second complaint, however, which may be more important in the long run,” said Mike Chapple, professor of IT at the University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of Businessand author Cyber ​​Warfare: Information Operations in a Connected World.

“Zatko is a well-respected cybersecurity expert who claims Twitter’s infrastructure runs outdated software and contains numerous security holes,” said Chapple, who is also a former NSA computer scientist. “If true, this is the type of security issue that can easily lead to a major security incident. Unpatched software was the root cause of the massive Equifax data breach in 2017 and thousands of smaller breaches every year. A faulty system can provide attackers with The foothold needed to launch a highly successful attack.”

Bigger than Cambridge Analytica?

The information shared through complaints is already much the same as Facebook’s post-Cambridge Analytica structure, and there is no doubt that it can be used on both ends of the political spectrum to construct arguments about an unfair information playing field.

“These allegations of misconduct, incompetence, and willful acceptance of digital security risks have enormous implications for national security and democratic functioning,” White warned. “Platform governance and algorithm design are driving public awareness of major societal events, foreign policy crises and The importance of the responsive aspects of political developments cannot be overemphasized.”

Twitter isn’t as trusted as search engines like Google, but its role in the dissemination of information and the “misinformation” that comes with it cannot be overstated.

“Research still shows that for the average citizen, social media services are both an important information retrieval mechanism and a powerful heuristic setting tool, with parameters listed in code, developer assumptions, and personalization algorithms constituting the tools used to interpret reality. A personalized resource of world events,” White continued. “In short, the information users get using these platforms varies based on a number of factors, the most critical of which are the assumptions of key platform algorithms (as opposed to user-determined network or location, etc.) factor compared to that). Even though only a quarter of Americans use Twitter, it remains the primary source of information for a variety of other media, expanding U.S. users of the platform by orders of magnitude, both second-hand and third-hand .”

This could provide an opportunity for foreign actors to spread disinformation that could undermine our elections and even our democracy.

“Threat actors (like Russia’s Fancy Bear) simply need to combine future campaign tactics with exploitable platform capabilities opened by agents embedded in Twitter to have unpredictable possible strategic impacts,” White said. He suggested that we should Keep an eye out for Zatko’s now-focused info.

“Given his past role at Twitter and his professional views on the importance of different digital threats to the nation, it should be hard for anyone not to take his report seriously. It’s kind of like Buzz Aldrin coming out and saying there’s Apo The Luo plan is seriously flawed,” White continued. “There’s no question that even in the years since the 2016 election, Twitter has been on the verge of an unprecedented level of scrutiny for the company.”

Indifferent to something?

However, there is also an argument that perhaps the whistleblower’s complaint may have been completely exaggerated.

“To be sure, Twitter has its problems,” he continued. “But it’s not like the NSA cares about your eggplant posts. Twitter’s questions are natural. Anyone who presents themselves as a ‘whistleblower’ doesn’t gain any traction or legitimacy. Theirs The behavior is selfish and their agenda is unknown.”

As for Twitter’s behavior, Bailey added that users should expect social media to behave the way it does now, which is no different from much of the business world.

“We all know what Twitter is,” Bailey said. “They’re not clean by any means, but that means they’re like every other company.”

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