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Twitter’s whistleblower testifies of Chinese agent on company’s payroll

Disclosures from a former Twitter executive turned whistleblower show that the company was informed of at least one Chinese agent working within its ranks, US Senator Chuck Grassley said in his opening remarks during a Senate hearing on Tuesday featuring testimony from the whistleblower.

Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a famed hacker who served as Twitter’s head of security until his firing last year, said during the hearing that some Twitter employees were concerned that the Chinese government would be able to collect data on the company’s users.

He referenced a Reuters story on Tuesday that detailed internal clashes between some teams that wanted to maximise their advertising revenue opportunity from Chinese advertisers and others who were concerned about doing business inside China amid rising geopolitical tensions.

“This was a big internal conundrum,” Mr Zatko said, adding the company was reluctant to turn away from China as the fastest-growing overseas market for ad revenue.

He said that in the week before he was fired from Twitter, he learned that an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security, or MSS, an agency comparable to the US Central Intelligence Agency, was on the payroll at Twitter.

It was not immediately clear if the alleged Chinese agent was still working at the company and Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Mr Zatko’s testimony.

Mr Zatko said he recalled a conversation with another Twitter executive about concerns that a foreign agent was inside the company. The executive responded “Well, since we already have one, what does it matter if we have more?

According to Senator Grassley, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had earlier informed Twitter of at least one Chinese agent inside the company.

Sen. @ChuckGrassley: "Personal data from Twitter users was potentially exposed to foreign intelligence agencies…the FBI notified Twitter of at least one Chinese agent in the company."

— Free Speech America (@FreeSpeechAmer) September 13, 2022

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