Twitter shareholders vote in favor of proposed acquisition by Elon Musk

SAN FRANCISCO | Twitter shareholders on Tuesday approved the agreement for Elon Musk to buy the platform, shortly after hearing a whistleblower who, like the billionaire, has accused the company of hiding issues.

• Also read: Musk cites ex-Twitter security chief as justification for calling off deal

• Also read: Gun ownership between attorneys for Twitter and Musk over data provided

The 98.6% vote in favor of the transaction solidifies the social network’s position a month before opening the lawsuit it has launched against Mr Musk to force him to honor his obligation.

In early July, the head of Tesla and SpaceX unilaterally terminated the deal signed at the end of April to acquire Twitter at $54.20 a share, or a $44 billion valuation.

But that election is scant consolation for the blue bird, whom a former senior official publicly berated. Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s former security chief who was fired in January, detailed his report of serious security breaches submitted to US authorities on Tuesday.

“Twitter’s management is deceiving elected officials, regulators and even its own board of directors,” he told Judiciary Committee senators at the outset.

“They don’t know what data they have, where it is, where it’s coming from, so they obviously can’t protect it,” said the expert, better known by his alias Mudge. “Employees have too much access (…), it doesn’t matter who has the keys if you don’t have locks on the doors,” he said.

“Profit Before Safety”

The 51-year-old computer scientist, who was recruited at the end of 2020 after a spectacular hacking of certain profiles, claims to have tried in vain to alert the group’s senior officials. “They don’t have the skills to understand the scale of the problem,” he said. “Most importantly, their executive bonuses encourage them to put profits ahead of safety.”

That remark “is partially countered by the acknowledgment that Twitter is a service of great value,” commented Insider Intelligence analyst Jasmine Enberg. But Mudge’s allegations still “damage Twitter’s image, which has made the safety of its users a priority,” she added.

At the end of August, the exposure of the report by the whistleblower, who was highly respected in the cybersecurity community, had a bombshell effect in the press. Twitter dismissed these allegations as unfounded, but they came at a good time for Elon Musk.

He, who once wanted to make the platform a public space “essential to democracy,” believes the San Francisco-based company lied to him about the proportion of automated accounts and spam among its users. In his opinion, this would far exceed the 5% estimated by Twitter’s management.

Popcorn

But Peiter Zatko directly mentions the Tesla boss’s questions about bots in his report. He cites “misleading” statements by network boss Parag Agrawal and claims Twitter’s tools are “outdated”, its teams “overwhelmed” and “inefficient”.

Allegations that Elon Musk’s lawyers will try to use to their advantage during a trial in a specialized court scheduled for mid-October.

“For Wall Street, Zatko’s testimony before the Senate puts more pressure on the Twitter camp,” tweeted Dan Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities.

In its press release on the shareholder vote, the Californian company asserted that it “continues to believe that the alleged termination of the buyout agreement is invalid and unfounded”.

“I did not make my whistleblower disclosures out of spite or to harm Twitter,” Mudge assured senators Tuesday. “Given the real harm to users and national security, I have decided it is necessary to take the personal and professional risk for myself and my family to sound the alarm,” he said.

For his part, Elon Musk tweeted a popcorn-shaped emoji, suggesting he was enjoying the audition.

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