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Twitter controversies continue: Burned notebooks, antisemitic tweet

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There seems to be no pause in the ongoing Twitter controversies prompted by the on-off-on purchase of the social network by Elon Musk.

The latest developments involve a report about burned notebooks, deleted files, and whether an unhinged antisemitic tweet would have been allowed to remain up under Musk’s ownership …


In previous episodes … Musk started quietly buying up Twitter shares, was offered and accepted a seat on the company’s boardchanged his mind a day later, offered to buy the companyTwitter resisted, then accepted before Musk tried to back out, Twitter sued, it’s all going ahead again, leaving Musk’s bankers sweating.

Burned notebooks and deleted files

One element I skipped in the above summary is that Twitter’s former security head, Peiter Zatko, filed complaints with the FTC, SEC, and DoJ, alleging “extreme, egregious deficiencies” in the company’s protections against hackers. Musk promptly seized on that as another reason not to proceed with the purchase, despite having signed a waiver, giving up his due diligence rights.

That led to a Senate investigation into whether the alleged failings could threaten national security, through fake tweets seemingly issued by politicians and world leaders.

The latest development here is that Zatko claims Twitter forced him to burn notebooks and delete files in order to get his severance package. That would sound like something out of a tabloid report, but for the fact that Zatko is a well-respected figure in the security world, not given to wild stories.

Bloomberg reports.

Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s ex-head of security, said he burned 10 handwritten notebooks and deleted 100 computer files at the behest of company managers as part of his separation agreement, according to Oct. 3 court filings that were unsealed Monday. The books contained notes of the whistle-blower’s meetings with company counterparts during his year-long tenure as security chief, the filings show.

Musk of course responded at the time.

“Twitter’s attempt to buy Mr. Zatko’s silence failed, but Twitter achieved its secondary aim of ensuring Mr. Zatko’s corroborating evidence would never come to light,” Musk’s lawyers said in the unsealed filing.

Antisemitic tweet latest of Twitter controversies

There has also been speculation about how the handling of a bizarre antisemitic tweet by Kanye West – who now goes by the name of Ye – might have been handled under Musk’s ownership of the social network. The Washington Post reports:

The rapper Ye, formerly Kanye West, sent an Instagram post Friday suggesting fellow musician Sean “Diddy” Combs was controlled by Jewish people — a common antisemitic trope. Within hours, Instagram had removed the post and locked his account.

That sent Ye to Twitter, where he was publicly welcomed back by Elon Musk, who may soon take ownership of the company. Within hours, however, Ye had posted a separate antisemitic tweet that he would go “death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” Twitter, like Instagram, was quick to block the post and lock his account.

Musk has frequently said that Twitter should be open to free speech, leading many to express concern that such tweets might be permitted under his management. The billionaire himself appeared to confirm this when he said that he had merely “expressed concerns” to Ye, leading one Stanford academic to wryly express how nonsensical this was as a response.

Others said they looked forward to Musk’s call to discuss their recent tweets.

In principle, Musk’s purchase of Twitter is proceeding, but I don’t think many will take it as a done deal until the paperwork is complete, and we can likely expect Twitter controversies to continue either way.

Photo: Engin Akyurt/Unsplash

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