December 1, 2022
Second Twitter whistleblower Elon Musk may appear in trial

Another Twitter whistleblower is considering taking the stand when Elon Musk confronts the company over its $44 billion buyout deal later in two weeks — and he may have a few things to say about the bots, The Post has learned.

Unlike Peter “Mudge” Zatko — a Twitter whistleblower who didn’t mention the word “bots” or “spam” once during his two-and-a-half-hour congressional testimony in September — the potential second tipster will focus on an alleged internal study. concluded that the site’s bot problem is much bigger than Twitter’s.

A former Twitter employee, the whistleblower who happens to be, claims to have been involved in an internal report several years ago that believed at least 30% of Twitter’s daily active users accounted for automated spam.

“Twitter execs laughed when they were told about the report and said, ‘We’ve always had a bot problem,'” the potential whistleblower said in an interview with The Post.

His testimony could be a boon for Musk, who has made Twitter’s alleged bot problem a cornerstone of his legal argument about why he should be allowed to opt out of his deal to buy the site.

But Musk still faces a bigger problem: The potential whistleblower isn’t sure whether he wants to talk.

Elon Musk
Musk’s case may be bolstered by another Twitter whistleblower.

“I haven’t fully decided yet,” the witness said, adding that he isn’t sure he’s ready for the attention that will come with taking a stand in one of the most closely watched trials in years. .

The two sides are due to swap lists of witnesses on Wednesday, potentially answering whether a second whistleblower will appear. While Zatko has been summoned by Musk’s team, the other whistleblower has not received the summons.

Representatives for Twitter and Musk declined to comment.

“Twitter execs laughed when they were told about the report and said, ‘We’ve always had a bot problem,'” said the potential whistleblower.

The potential whistleblower said Twitter’s chosen metric for measuring bots — called monetizable daily active users, or mDAUs — is overly narrow and fails to fully capture the extent of the site’s spam problem. He said Twitter can’t lie when it says less than 5% of its mDAUs are bots, but it has problems with using mDAUs as a measure in the first place and claims the company is transparent with investors. Has not been.

The potential whistleblower said Twitter says it has 238 million mDAUs – but the total number of daily users is significantly higher when one includes automated fake accounts that haven’t been disabled. The spam accounts were identified because they displayed bot-like behavior such as posting every hour on the hour and replying to tweets within five seconds of being posted by another user, he said.

“The total number of active accounts was higher than the number we publicly reported,” the whistleblower said.

Peter "mudge" zatko
Peter “Mudge” Zatko testified in Congress in September.
Getty Images

A source close to Twitter said the company was not aware of the exact study reported by the potential whistleblower. The source explained that not all automated accounts on the site are spam. So-called “good bots” on the site include accounts like @howsmyddriveny, which automatically looks for traffic violations based on license plate numbers, and @met_drawings, which collects public domain tasks from the Met’s drawings and prints department on an automated schedule. posts.

Potentially more significantly, the source argued that the potential whistleblower should not have any bearing on the five-day trial, which is scheduled to begin in Delaware on October 17, because he is accused of fraud or discrepancies in Twitter’s Securities and Exchange Commission. does not accuse. Bada. Legal experts say that while Musk initially agreed to buy Twitter, his decision to waive due diligence also undermined his argument about bots.

The whistleblower said he had to remove the report when he left Twitter as part of an agreement not to keep confidential business information.

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