Indian government forced Twitter to hire its ‘agent’: Whistleblower

He said the Indian government agent would have had access to sensitive user data due to Twitter's weak security infrastructure

Twitter Elon Musk Hunter Biden
Several Twitter users and employees had voiced concerns that the new badges could cause confusion ahead of Tuesday's (November 8) midterm elections because users could easily create verified accounts | File Image

The Indian government forced Twitter to hire “its agent”, a former security chief of the social media giant has alleged in a whistleblower disclosure with US regulators, reports said on Wednesday (August 24).

Peiter ‘Mudge’ Zatko raised the issue with the US Securities and Exchange Commission among other security lapse claims at Twitter, according to a Reuters report.

He said the Indian government agent would have had access to sensitive user data due to Twitter’s weak security infrastructure, according to a redacted version of the complaint uploaded by the Washington Post newspaper and verified by Zatko’s attorney at Whistleblower Aid, it added.

Also read: Musk seeks documents from friend Jack Dorsey in legal fight with Twitter

Twitter knowingly hired Indian government agents who would have had unsupervised access to “vast amounts of Twitter’s sensitive data,” according to the complaint. Furthermore, according to Zatko, the company misrepresented on its transparency reports that it knew Indian government representatives were on the company’s payroll, as per a Bloomberg report.

However, in a statement to Bloomberg News, Twitter disputed the details in Zatko’s complaint without pointing to specific inaccuracies.

“What we’ve seen so far is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context,” Twitter said.

Also read: Twitter removes Leena Manimekalai’s controversial tweet

Twitter vs Centre

Last month, the Karnataka High Court allowed Twitter to place the various ‘blocking orders’ issued by the Union government before it in sealed envelopes.

Twitter approached the High Court against 10 different ‘blocking orders’, issued by the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY).

These orders are variously dated between February 2, 2021 and February 28, 2022. They include orders to block accounts, tweets, URLs and hashtags.

Last year, Twitter was in the eye of a storm over its alleged failure to comply with the new IT rules in India, which mandates, among other requirements, the appointment of three key personnel — chief compliance officer, nodal officer, and grievance officer by social media platforms with over 50 lakh users. All three personnel have to be residents in India.

Later, it named Vinay Prakash as its Resident Grievance Officer for India.

Also read: Twitter appoints grievance officer in India, publishes first compliance report

In May 2021, Twitter expressed concern over the use of intimidation tactics by the police after it gave manipulated media tag to tweets by spokesperson of ruling party BJP, and said it is concerned about employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression.

Twitter said it will strive to comply with applicable law in India to keep its service available in the country. The microblogging platform said it plans to advocate for changes to elements of IT rules that inhibit free, open public conversation .

“Right now, we are concerned by recent events regarding our employees in India and the potential threat to freedom of expression for the people we serve. We, alongside many in civil society in India and around the world, have concerns with regards to the use of intimidation tactics by the police in response to enforcement of our global Terms of Service, as well as with core elements of the new IT Rules,” the spokesperson said.

This was after the Delhi Police’s Special Cell sent a notice to Twitter India in connection with the probe into a complaint about the alleged ‘COVID toolkit’, asking it to share information based on which it had classified a related tweet by BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra as “manipulated media”.

Also read: Twitter responds to Musk’s claims, calls them excuses

Two police teams also descended on the microblogging site’s offices in Lado Sarai in Delhi and in Gurugram on Monday evening.

On May 27, 2021, the Union government told Twitter to comply with the laws of the land.

“Twitter needs to stop beating around the bush and comply with the laws of the land. Law making and policy formulations is the sole prerogative of the sovereign and Twitter is just a social media platform and it has no locus in dictating what should India’s legal policy framework should be,” the Centre said.

(With inputs from agencies)