Twitter employed Indian and Chinese government agents, alleges whistleblower testified before US State Congress

The former security chief also added that Twitter lacks the ability to hunt down and eliminate foreign agents. | Photo: representative image

From an advertising ban in Turkey to a blockage in China, social media platform Twitter is no stranger to being caught in the political crosshairs. But footage of police raiding his office in Gurgaon for calling a BJP leader’s tweet “manipulated media” showed how far authorities were willing to go. More than a year after that raid, a whistleblower and former Twitter security chief, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, claimed that the Indian state forced the company to hire a government agent.

Now, Zatko has revealed that Indian and Chinese intelligence agents are working on Twitter and have access to sensitive data due to the company’s weak security. In his testimony before the US State Congress, Zatko also accused the social media site of grossly negligent security practices, adding that a US government source had warned him about infiltrators among its employees. The former security chief also said that Twitter lacks the ability to detect foreign agents and kick them out on its own.

Pro-democracy dissidents in danger?

Zatko’s allegations were supported by US Senator Chuck Grassley in his opening remarks, where he discussed the indictment of two Twitter employees paid by Saudi Arabia for information on political dissidents. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley added that governments can use sensitive data acquired by agents to track down pro-democracy activists or spy on Americans.

A hub for Chinese government advertisements

Apart from issues with India’s ruling party, Twitter has also been banned from over a billion Chinese internet users who use Sina Weibo instead. But it should be noted that despite the ban, the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda offices and local authorities spent a lot of money on global advertising spots on Twitter.

Budget documents and government tenders reviewed by Reuters said ads featuring China’s tourist destinations and economic achievements were being pushed on Twitter. On the other hand, it’s among the social media platforms that banned political ads altogether after scrutiny of 2016 US presidential polls.

As for Zatko’s allegations, Twitter previously labeled it a false narrative, which is “tricked with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks significant context.”

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