It is common for criminals to believe it is not a crime even if you are caught. Most law-abiding citizens believe that it isn’t what makes it illegal, but rather, the crime was committed before you were caught.
Many companies don’t realize the severity of their internal problems until someone whistleblowers them. Twitter’s ex-security chief has warned legislators and regulators that Twitter didn’t seem to have enough resources or incentive to accurately measure bots. This was according to a 200 page whistleblower disclosure.
Peiter Zatko (or “Mudge”) filed the disclosure in July with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and Department of Justice.
Experts now say that the revelation is not unexpected.
James Bailey, professor of management at George Washington University School of Business explained that “a complex social media company as large as Twitter will stumble.” This is a new field. Twitter is not a policing tool. It is impossible to police Twitter because there are so many decisions and no precedent. This is an evolutionary normal, regardless of whether it’s content presentation or data security.
Major allegations, Cybersecurity concerns included
According to what we know now, Zatko’s whistleblower complaint involves two main claims. The first is that Zatko had undercounted the spam and bots accounts. This is due to Elon Musk’s offer of purchase.
These allegations support the claim that Twitter has been infested in large part with bot accounts and other interactions. This is according to Dr. Christopher Whyte of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.Musk is particularly influenced by the assertion that the company doesn’t care much about reducing bot access.
The issue of bots may be serious but Mike Chapple, an IT professor at Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and the author of Cyberwarfare: Information Operations within a Connected World
According to Chapple (a former National Security Agency computer scientist), “Zatko,” a respected cybersecurity expert, claims that Twitter’s infrastructure has out-of date software and is vulnerable. If true, it is the type security vulnerability that can lead to major security incidents. Equifax’s 2017 massive data breach was caused by an unpatched program. There are thousands more such breaches every year. An attacker could have one critical weakness in an unpatched system that can give them the opportunity to launch a successful attack.
Bigger Than Cambridge Analytica?
Information shared through the complaint is being already framed in the same manner as Facebook post Cambridge Analytica and could, undoubtedly, be used to create arguments against unfair informational playing areas by both ends.
Whyte warned that “these allegations of misconduct and ineptitude are extremely significant for national security as well as democratic functionality.” It’s difficult to emphasize the importance of platform management and algorithmic designs in driving public reactions to major social and foreign policy crises, political developments and other significant events.
Twitter may not be as trusted as Google or other search engines, but it is crucial in spreading information and misinformation.
Whyte said that research continues to show social media services as both powerful information retrieval tools and powerful heuristic setting tools for average citizens. With parameters set out in code and developer assumptions, and personalization algorithms, they provide an individual resource for understanding real-world events. Simply put, information that users receive through these platforms depends on many factors. The most important of those factors is the assumptions underpinning key platform algorithms, vs user-determined variables like location or network. Even though Twitter only accounts for one percent of Americans, it is still the primary source of all media information that helps to increase American use by a significant amount.
Foreign actors could use this opportunity to spread misinformation and undermine elections, as well as our democratic system.
It takes only for Russia’s Fancy bear to combine future campaign strategies with exploitable features on Twitter, which can produce strategic effects that are difficult to predict,” stated Whyte. He suggested we look closely at what information Zatko now has in the spotlight.
Given his previous role as a Twitter employee and his professional perspective regarding the importance of digital threats facing the country, anyone should take his report seriously. “It’s almost as if Buzz Aldrin would have come out and stated that there were serious flaws in the Apollo program,” Whyte said. “Twitter’s undoubtedly at the edge of unprecedented scrutiny for the company in years since the 2016 elections.”
Much Ado About Something?
There is also the possibility that whistleblower complaints could have been overblown.
His comments continued: “Twitter does have its issues, it is true,” he added. It’s not as if the National Security Agency (NSA), cares for you posting about eggplants. Twitter has its problems. Anyone who presents themselves as a whistleblower will not gain any traction and legitimacy. Their selfish actions and unknowable agenda are the result of their ingenious behavior.”
Bailey said that Twitter’s actions were unacceptable and users shouldn’t have been surprised by it. This is just like business.
Bailey stated, “We all understand what Twitter is.” They aren’t perfect, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have problems.