This is not my ode to Twitter, or even my lament. It’s an attempt to understand how my favorite social media network could have become such a disaster.
Recently, a whistleblower named Peiter “Mudge” Zatko revealed rampant security improprieties at Twitter. The former security chief said the social media company may have misled government regulators, downplayed the spambot problem, and made sweeping announcements about new security measures that were never really in the works.
The complaint, which is available in redacted form, has caught the attention of Congress. Zatko will testify in front of Congress to talk about his allegations, what Twitter reps have called a false narrative.
In other words, this is getting serious.
Elon Musk has made similar claims about misleading information, particularly as it relates to the total number of active accounts (e.g., the human ones). His legal team is now reinvigorated in the court battle over whether Musk can walk away from buying Twitter.
What’s the real issue here? In short, we don’t really know what is real and what isn’t real. Twitter has been lying to us, according to Zatko. If you believe Musk, the social media company has misrepresented how many people actually use the platform.
I’ve been an active user since the beginning, first with an original account I started using shortly after the launch date, then with a new account I’ve been using ever since. I have skin in the game because I’ve always been an active user and prefer the quick, truncated approach to social media. I’ve been known to post quick links to articles and, for many years, did that multiple times per day.
I’ve lived through all of the ups and downs, including rampant troll behavior, constant spambot activity, and even the time Russian hackers took over my account.
I’ve stuck with the platform through thick and thin.
This latest revelation is making me question that commitment all over again.
My hope is that Twitter doesn’t go into yet another defensive posture, although from what I am seeing so far they are claiming the allegations are not true and plan to keep fighting Musk. I suppose anything other than flat-out denial would reveal culpability. And yet, maybe it is time to come clean.
If Twitter really is infested with spambots, and if the security practices are suspect, it might be time for the social media company to start making real changes. We might need a bold move on their part, such as locking down any new account registrations until they can clean house. If there’s been a history of making security infrastructure announcements without the follow-through, then the firm should reveal more about what they plan to do and how they plan to do it. They should form a security task-force (similar to what you might do when there is a security breach or a massive scandal) that includes experts from outside firms.
Twitter needs to make some bold moves to repair the damage.
We’re currently in a situation where Musk wanted to buy the company and then realized it wasn’t such a great move, and now another new situation where a whistleblower is making claims about the company that have landed him in front of Congress. What more do we need to know?
Twitter is in trouble. It’s time for them to stop talking and figure out an actual strategy, revealed in detail, about the next steps.
I’m not ready to delete my account yet, but it’s tempting.