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The Latest Accusations Against Twitter May Not Help Elon Musk – But They Certainly Don’t Help Twitter



Elon Musk Looks to Exit Twitter Takeover Due to Fake Profiles in the App

This week’s revelations of widespread security concerns at Twitter have left many divided as to what they actually mean, in the broader context of the app and the individuals involved. But one thing is certain – the accusations presented by former Twitter Security Chief Peter ‘Mudge’ Zatko highlight overall dysfunction within the company, which, at best, suggests that there could well be various internal issues and concerns that Twitter is working to keep hidden from the public.

As reported earlier this week, Zatko has accused Twitter executives of deceiving federal regulators, deliberately misleading the company’s board, and lying about the presence of bots and spam on the service.

The details are not definitive in each instance, but based on the overall statements and counter statements about Zatko’s experience at the app, it does seem that the main issues stem from Zatko’s lack of acceptance into the fold at Twitter HQ, and the resulting issues that has caused.

Which reflects internal dysfunction, as noted.

To recap, back in 2020, Twitter suffered the biggest hack in its history, which saw the accounts of major celebrities like Barrack Obama, Joe Biden and Elon Musk all suddenly start posting Bitcoin scam links.

Twitter eventually traced this back to a human exploit – hackers had convinced a Twitter employee to give them access to the platform’s control console, which enabled them to take over any account they wanted. But in the wake of the incident, then Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey reached out to Zatko, who has years of high-profile experience in dealing with cybersecurity, and asked him to come on board as head of security to ‘help the world’ by addressing the platform’s problems.

According to Zatko, and others who worked with him at the app, he then had limited contact with Twitter’s executive team, including Dorsey himself.

As per The Washington Post:

In 12 months, Zatko could manage only six one-on-one calls, all less than 30 minutes, with his direct boss Dorsey, who also served as CEO of payments company Square, now known as Block, according to the complaint. Zatko allegedly did almost all of the talking, and Dorsey said perhaps 50 words in the entire year to him. “A couple dozen text messages” rounded out their electronic communication, the complaint alleges.

This is an important note, because the hiring of Zatko, who’s career in the industry goes back some 27 years, now looks, potentially, like more of a PR stunt than anything, with Zatko also noting that, aside from Dorsey, other Twitter executives largely ignored his warnings on potential vulnerabilities within its systems.

Indeed, several former and current Twitter employees have since stated that Zatko wasn’t considered an authority within the company, despite his title, with one going so far as to call Zatko ‘a clown’, regardless of his historical achievements and status (though it is worth noting that, in Zatko’s time at the app, the platform’s backlog of safety cases shrunk from 1 million to 200,000, reflecting his contributions on at least some fronts).

That being the case, it may be that Zatko didn’t have the level of access nor full oversight that he claims, while Zatko has also made extreme statements in the past in regards to perceived security vulnerabilities.

As per Yahoo Finance:

In 1998, Zatko testified to the Senate alongside his L0pht colleagues about critical internet infrastructure vulnerabilities. He said the group had discovered an exploit that would allow him and his colleagues to take the entire internet offline in 30 minutes.

Comments like this potentially weaken Zatko’s Twitter complaints, and again, on balance, it increasingly seems like Zatko had been bought into Twitter at least partially for PR purposes, which may also weaken his claims around the widespread dangers in the app.

But overall, what the situation really shows is that Twitter is all over the place.

The fact that Zatko was never fully integrated, and had trouble even getting a meeting with his boss, reflects a company in disarray, which could suggest that virtually anything that Twitter reports publicly isn’t entirely correct, based on miscommunication and conflicting incentives in the app.

Could that mean that more than 5% of Twitter’s active users are fake or spam accounts? Sure, it seems like anything could be true, if the lines of communication are so conflicted and confused internally.

Indeed, according to Zatko’s testimony:

“In early 2021, as a new executive, Mudge (Zatko) asked the head of site integrity what the underling spam bot numbers were. Their response was ‘we don’t really know’. The company could not even provide an upper bound on the total number of spam bots on the platform. The site integrity team gave three reasons for this failure: (1) they did not know how to measure; (2) they were buried under constant firefighting and could not keep up with reacting to bots and other platform abuse; and, most troubling, (3) senior management had no appetite to properly measure the prevalence of bot accounts.”

Conflicting incentives, miscommunication and overall dysfunction are the real underlying revelations of Zatko’s statements, which means that everything he says could be true, and Twitter could be a mess. Or maybe none of it is 100% right.

Because no one really seems to know for sure, and that, in itself, is a concern for the company.

Does that help Elon Musk’s case, in trying to weasel out of his $44 billion Twitter takeover bid?

Probably not. Twitter’s legal team is standing firm on the fact that the amount of bots and spam on the platform is immaterial, given the parameters of the original takeover agreement.

There is a prospect that pending fines that Twitter might face as a result of Zatko’s testimony could constitute Material Adverse Effect, and let Musk off the hook – but legal experts note that this is also unlikely as any investigation won’t be settled before the October trial date (note: Zatko will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee next month).

But what we do know is that Twitter, internally, has many, many problems, which may well be why Musk wants to get away from the deal as fast as he can.

But he could be stuck, either way – which could put the future of the platform on shaky ground, as Musk eventually seeks to tear it all down in order to re-build it back up based on his own management vision.

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The North Face Delivered Jacket Via Helicopter After Viral TikTok Complaint



The North Face Delivered Jacket Via Helicopter After Viral TikTok Complaint

  • Popular apparel brand The North Face posted a crazy marketing stunt on TikTok recently. 
  • In a video, they delivered a rain jacket to a woman at the top of a mountain in New Zealand via helicopter. 
  • The woman had complained in a viral TikTok that her waterproof jacket got soaked in the rain. 

The North Face pulled an elaborate marketing stunt on TikTok and delivered some rain gear via helicopter to a woman in New Zealand, whose complaint about the brand went viral on the platform. 

Jenn Jensen posted a TikTok video on November 17 showing herself on a hiking trail in the rain where she’s soaked whilst wearing a rain jacket sporting The North Face logo. 

“I’ve got a bone to pick with North Face,” Jensen says in the video which has racked up over 11 million views. “I bought this ‘rain jacket’ a couple of days ago and the tag for the advertising said that it’s waterproof. Well listen, I’m 100% sure that it’s raining outside and I’m soaking wet.” 

She added: “Listen… I don’t want a refund. I want you to redesign this rain coat to make it waterproof and express deliver it to the top of Hooker Valley Lake in New Zealand where I will be waiting.” 

She tagged The North Face’s TikTok page in her caption. In one comment a user named @timbrodini wrote: “*Northface has left the conversation.” 

The popular outdoor clothes brand made their own TikTok video in response to @timbrodini’s comment in which they said: “We were busy express delivering @Jenn her jacket at the top of mountain.”

In the TikTok video, a North Face employee can be seen grabbing a red jacket from one of its physical stores and then hopping onto a helicopter where he’s flown out to New Zealand. The man then jumps out of the helicopter at the top of the mountain and runs out to throw the jacket to Jensen who is waiting. 

She says “thank you” at the end of the video, which has also gone viral and gained 4.1 million views. 

Jensen then made a follow up video on her page explaining that The North Face’s marketing team saw her video and wanted to make “amends.” She said they flew her out by helicopter to the top of a mountain in New Zealand to give her new rain gear. 

“At this point the ultimate test will be if the new rain gear they gave me at the top of that mountain will hold up to the very high bar that North Face has now set for themselves,” she concluded at the end of the video. 

Some users speculated whether her original video was also a part of the marketing stunt but Jensen responded that she “turned down” the opportunity to be paid for the company’s follow up video. 

“I’m not an influencer, I was just a disappointed customer.” 

The marketing strategy appears to be a new way for brands to connect with customers by showing their care whilst also providing an entertaining video on social media. 

The North Face seems to be following the steps of the Stanley cup brand which recently went viral after gifting a woman a new car. The woman’s own car had burnt down, but in a TikTok video she showed that her insulated Stanley cup had survived the car fire and that the ice inside hadn’t even melted. 

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U.S. Judge Blocks Montana’s Effort to Ban TikTok in the State



U.S. Judge Blocks Montana’s Effort to Ban TikTok in the State

TikTok has won another reprieve in the U.S., with a District Judge blocking Montana’s effort to ban the app for all users in the state.

Back in May, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed legislation to ban TikTok outright from operating in the state, in order to protect residents from alleged intelligence gathering by China. There’s no definitive evidence that TikTok is, or has participated in such, but Gianforte opted to move to a full ban, going further than the Government device bans issued in other regions.

As explained by Gianforte at the time:

The Chinese Communist Party using TikTok to spy on Americans, violate their privacy, and collect their personal, private, and sensitive information is well-documented. Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party.”

In response, a collection of TikTok users challenged the proposed ban, arguing that it violated their first amendment rights, which led to this latest court challenge, and District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s decision to stop Montana’s ban effort.

Montana’s TikTok ban had been set to go into effect from January 1st 2024.

In issuing a preliminary injunction to stop Montana from imposing a full ban on the app, Molloy said that Montana’s legislation does indeed violate the Constitution, and “oversteps state power”.

Molloy’s judgment is primarily centered on the fact that Montana has essentially sought to exercise foreign policy authority in enacting a TikTok ban, which is only enforceable by federal authorities. Molloy also noted that there was apervasive undertone of anti-Chinese sentiment” within Montana’s proposed legislation.

TikTok has welcomed the ruling, issuing a brief statement in response:

Montana attorney general, meanwhile, has said that it’s considering next steps to advance its proposed TikTok ban.

It’s a win for TikTok, though the Biden Administration is still weighing a full TikTok ban in the U.S., which may still happen, even though the process has been delayed by legal and legislative challenges.

As I’ve noted previously, my sense here would be that TikTok won’t be banned in the U.S. unless there’s a significant shift in U.S.-China relations, and that relationship is always somewhat tense, and volatile to a degree.

If the U.S. Government has new reason to be concerned, it may well move to ban the app. But doing so would be a significant step, and would prompt further response from the C.C.P.

Which is why I suspect that the U.S. Government won’t act, unless it feels that it has to. And right now, there’s no clear impetus to implement a ban, and stop a Chinese-owned company from operating in the region, purely because of its origin.

Which is the real crux of the issue here. A TikTok ban is not just banning a social media company, it’s blocking cross-border commerce, because the company is owned by China, which will remain the logic unless clear evidence arises that TikTok has been used as a vector for gathering information on U.S. citizens.

Banning a Chinese-owned app because its Chinese-owned is a statement, beyond concerns about a social app, and the U.S. is right to tread carefully in considering how such a move might impact other industries.

So right now, TikTok is not going to be banned, in Montana, or anywhere else in the U.S. But that could still change, very quickly.

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Israeli president tells Musk he has ‘huge role’ in anti-Semitism



Elon Musk, the world's richest person, said in video remaks that Hamas militants 'have been fed propaganda'

Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, said in video remaks that Hamas militants ‘have been fed propaganda’ – Copyright POOL/AFP Leon Neal

Israel’s president told Elon Musk on Monday that the tech mogul has “a huge role to play” to combat anti-Semitism, which his social media platform is accused of spreading.

The meeting came after the world’s richest person visited a kibbutz community devastated in attacks by Hamas militants on October 7, and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence officials.

Musk has been criticised over what critics say is a proliferation of hate speech on X, formerly Twitter, since his takeover of the social media site in October 2022.

He has been accused by the White House of “abhorrent promotion” of anti-Semitism after endorsing a conspiracy theory seen as accusing Jews of trying to weaken white majorities.

Israel’s figurehead President Isaac Herzog told him: “Unfortunately, we are inundated by anti-Semitism, which is Jew hatred.

“You have a huge role to play,” he said. “And I think we need to fight it together because on the platforms which you lead, unfortunately, there’s a harbouring of a lot of… anti-Semitism.”

Musk did not mention anti-Semitism in his video remarks released by Herzog’s office, but said Hamas militants “have been fed propaganda since they were children”.

“It’s remarkable what humans are capable of if they’re fed falsehoods, from when they are children; they will think that the murder of innocent people is a good thing.”

On October 7 Hamas militants broke through Gaza’s militarised border into southern Israel to kill around 1,200 people and seize about 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials, in the worst-ever attack since the nation’s founding.

Vowing to destroy Hamas in response, Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment of targets in Gaza, alongside a ground invasion, that the Hamas government says has killed almost 15,000.

A temporary truce has been in effect since Friday.

– Talk of satellites –

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu and Musk discussed “security aspects of artificial intelligence” with senior defence officials, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Musk and Netanyahu held a conversation on X following their tour of Kfar Aza, one of the communities attacked by Hamas.

“We have to demilitarise Gaza after the destruction of Hamas,” Netanyahu said, calling for a campaign to “deradicalise” the Palestinian territory.

“Then we also have to rebuild Gaza, and I hope to have our Arab friends help in that context.”

Netanyahu told Musk he hoped to resume United States-mediated normalisation talks with Saudi Arabia after Hamas’s defeat and “expand the circle of peace beyond anything imaginable”.

The war stalled progress towards a Saudi-Israel normalisation deal, and in early November Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler denounced the conduct of Israeli forces fighting Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said his country had reached an understanding in principle on the use of Starlink satellites, operated by Musk’s company SpaceX, in Israel and the Gaza Strip “with the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Communications”.

Starlink is a network of satellites in low Earth orbit that can provide internet to remote locations, or areas that have had normal communications infrastructure disabled.

In September, Netanyahu urged Musk “to stop not only anti-Semitism, or rolling it back as best you can, but any collective hatred” on X.

Musk said at the time that while his platform could not stop all hate speech before it was posted, he was “generally against attacking any group, no matter who it is”.

X Corp is currently suing nonprofit Media Matters on the grounds that it has driven away advertisers by portraying the site as rife with anti-Semitic content.

Musk has also threatened to file suit against the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, over its claims that problematic and racist speech has soared on the site since he completed his $44-billion takeover.

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