U.S. House chair demands Twitter answer whistleblower allegations

WASHINGTON, Aug 25 (Reuters) - The chair of the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security and a key subcommittee demanded on Thursday that Twitter (TWTR.N) Chief Executive Parag Agrawal address "disturbing whistleblower allegations regarding poor security and privacy practices."

Democratic Representatives Bennie Thompson and Yvette Clarke also asked Twitter in a letter to detail its preparations for the 2022 elections and answer allegations raised by former Twitter security chief Peiter "Mudge" Zatko that the social media company misled regulators.

The 84-page complaint from Zatko, a famed hacker who used his expertise to bolster security for corporations and the government, accused Twitter of falsely claiming it had a solid security plan and making misleading statements about its defenses against hackers and spam accounts.

The lawmakers noted Zatko pointed "to multiple instances where Twitter executives obfuscated and mischaracterized information to Congress, regulators, and its own board – and may have even bowed to pressure from foreign governments to put their operatives on the company’s payroll. If any of these allegations are true, Twitter has a staggering security to-do list."

The lawmakers asked Twitter for its plan "to prioritize, remedy, and address security deficiencies raised in Mr. Zatko’s complaint" and how will it "prioritize security upgrades necessary to combat disinformation in time for the upcoming midterm elections?"

Zatko has already discussed his complaint with staff for the Senate Judiciary Committee, House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Senate Intelligence Committee, according to a spokesperson for Zatko. The U.S. Senate Judiciary committee has said it will hold a Sept. 13 hearing with Zatko.

Zatko's complaint made numerous claims and alleged Twitter prioritized user growth over reducing spam, with executives eligible to win individual bonuses of as much as $10 million tied to increases in daily users, and nothing explicitly for cutting spam, according to documents relayed by congressional investigators. read more

Twitter did not immediately respond to requests for Thursday. This week, it labeled the complaint a "false narrative." read more

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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