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Twitter denies whistleblower payout violates Musk’s takeover deal

·2-min read
 Musk’s lawyers argue the payout break the terms of the takeover agreement (AP)
Musk’s lawyers argue the payout break the terms of the takeover agreement (AP)

Twitter has denied its $7.8 million (£6.6 million) payout to a former exec-turned-whistleblower violate the terms of its $44 billion takeover by Elon Musk.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, who was Twitter’s head of security until he was fired earlier in the year, alleged the firm doesn’t delete users’ data after they deactivate their accounts, and has cybersecurity policies that expose it to hacking and disinformation by state aggressors.

The former exec was offered the payout after he left the firm in January. Musk’s lawyers argue the payout break the terms of the takeover agreement, and said Twitter should have sought the Tesla CEO’s permission before agreeing the payment.

The payout debacle is the latest in a series of fiery exchanges between the world’s richest man and one of the world’s biggest social media companies, as they gear up to face each other in a legal trail beginning in October.

Billionaire Musk is understood to have summed Zatko to appear as part of the trial, in which Twitter are hoping to force though Musk’s abandoned takeover. The Tesla boss walked away from the deal after accusing the company of failing to provide accurate information about the number of fake and ‘bot’ accounts on the platform.

Last week, Musk’s lawyers asked a Delaware court to delay the trial so they can investigate a whistleblower’s claims over its security policy. Twitter’s lawyers hit back at the request, saying: “Mr. Musk is blaming Twitter for his failing to do customary due diligence.”

Musk’s case against Twitter was given greater muscle after the US regulator, the Securities and Exchange Commision, wrote to the firm’s CEO, Parag Agrawal, requesting details on its methodology for estimating the number of spam accounts.

Twitter has reaffirmed its view that the number of these accounts represents less than 5% of overall users.