Twitter staff exodus accelerates amid Musk battle, whistleblower complaint

Twitter app logo is seen in this illustration taken, August 22, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

Aug 24 (Reuters) - Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) is facing more employee departures, company executives told staff on Wednesday, as leaders sought to address multiple challenges, including whistleblower allegations and a legal battle with billionaire Elon Musk.

Employee attrition is currently 18.3%, Twitter executives told staff during a company-wide meeting, audio of which was heard by Reuters. Before Musk made his $44 billion offer to buy the company, attrition hovered between 14% and 16%, which was consistent with competitors, executives had previously said.

The months-long chaos related to the Musk takeover has caused some staff to flee, current employees had told Reuters.

The staff meeting was held a day after Twitter's former security chief Peiter "Mudge" Zatko said in a whistleblower complaint that the social media company misled federal regulators about its defenses against hackers and spam accounts.

The San Francisco-based company is also heading to an October trial after suing Musk for attempting to walk away from the buyout agreement.

Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal moved to reassure employees on Wednesday that Zatko's accusations were "foundationally, technically and historically inaccurate."

Before the news broke, Twitter reached out to "various agencies" globally, said General Counsel Sean Edgett.

"We have never made a material misrepresentation to a regulator, to our board, to all of you," he said.

During the meeting, Twitter staff submitted questions to company leaders on whether Twitter would hire or promote more junior staff members and how Twitter could be expected to hit its growth targets given the employee exodus.

"The only way for us to deliver is by narrowing our focus to fewer things and for that to be proportionate to number of people here," Agrawal responded.

Jay Sullivan, Twitter's general manager for consumer and revenue product, gave early details of a new project to consider ways of letting users have more control over the content they see on Twitter. The idea of giving users more control helps shape Twitter's work on content moderation, but the new project would incorporate the philosophy into product road maps, Sullivan said.

Twitter did not respond to request for further comment.

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee said on Wednesday it will hold a hearing with Zatko on Sept. 13, the same day that Twitter shareholders will vote on whether to approve the deal with Musk.

Also on Wednesday, lawyers for Twitter and Musk attended a hearing in Wilmington, Delaware, to decide if Twitter had to provide documents and data sought by Musk to challenge the company's estimates of spam accounts on its platform. Musk's attorneys briefly mentioned the allegations by Zatko.

"Mr. Zatko said management had no appetite to measure bots," Alex Spiro, Musk's lawyer, told the judge.

The judge said at the end of Wednesday's hearing she would consider the arguments before issuing a ruling.

Reporting by Sheila Dang in Dallas, Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru and Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and Matthew Lewis

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