Senators across the ideological spectrum vowed to pursue stricter regulation for social media in response to Tuesday’s whistle-blower testimony about what he called the “ticking bomb of security vulnerabilities” at
Former Twitter security chief
The revelations had even Republicans like South Carolina’s
“It’s now time to look at social media platforms anew,” Graham promised Zatko in the hearing. “What you did today will not be in vain.”
The two senators are working on a bill to create a new federal regulator to oversee big tech, Graham told reporters after the hearing. He proposed licensing companies like Twitter, saying while they might not worry about paying a fine of $150 million, “they could worry about losing their license.” Graham and Warren haven’t reached agreement on the details, according to a congressional aide.
Right now, the FTC and Justice Department share oversight of the tech industry, and some advocates have argued that a regulator devoted to the internet economy would be better equipped to take on one of the world’s richest industries.
Graham said such an agency should force companies to harden their platforms against foreign interference, be more responsible with user data and provide an appeals process for content moderation decisions. He said new rules should “create a consequence for these organizations, give them an incentive to do better.”
Zatko said Twitter was a decade behind necessary security upgrades and gave several examples of Twitter prioritizing profit over addressing the risks on its influential platform.
“Twitter’s unsafe handling of the data of its users and its inability or unwillingness to truthfully represent issues to its board of directors and regulators have created real risk to tens of millions of Americans, the American democratic process, and America’s national security,” Zatko said in the hearing.
He also said the company’s leadership “repeatedly covered up its security failures by duping regulators and lying to users and investors.”
Zatko, 51, was fired in January 2022 over what the company said were performance shortcomings.
Twitter, in a statement issued after the hearing, said it “only confirms that Mr. Zatko’s allegations are riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.” The company defended its hiring process and said access to data is controlled by monitoring systems and background checks.
The reaction to Zatko’s testimony was mixed among current and former Twitter employees, according to people familiar with the matter and tweets from employees. Some pointed out that Zatko’s big-picture complaint -- that tech companies like Twitter need better oversight on data and security issues -- hit the mark. Still others questioned why he didn’t do more to fix Twitter’s problems himself, considering his high ranking position internally.
Sitting alone at a table facing the
The FTC in May fined Twitter for not complying with that 2011 agreement to tighten security controls and respect user privacy. But as Hawaii Democrat
Zatko’s allegations come as Twitter prepares to go to court to force
Lawmakers raised concerns in particular about Mudge’s allegations that Twitter has allowed foreign agents to operate on its payroll and acquiesced to the demands of adversaries like China. Judiciary Chairman
“Twitter is an immensely powerful platform that cannot afford gaping security vulnerabilities,” Durbin said.
Zatko said he wasn’t surprised to find out, a week before he was fired, that the
“If you’re not placing foreign agents inside Twitter -- because it’s very difficult to detect them, it is very valuable to a foreign agent to be inside there,” Zatko said of intelligence agencies, “you’re most likely not doing your job.”
Grassley said Twitter CEO
Zatko pleaded with lawmakers to pass protections for whistle-blowers who want to come forward while they are still at the companies. He also said any privacy legislation should involve audits and quantifiable results that couldn’t be gamed by technology platforms.
There is bipartisan support for new internet regulation to protect user privacy and security, but current proposals have failed to gain much traction as Congress focuses on other priorities. Even with Graham’s support, other Senate Judiciary Republicans questioned the need to give more power to regulators.
“I don’t think we need any more bureaucrats,” said Texas Republican
“To effectively address this problem, we need not only to insist on restructuring the company, but also likely restructuring, reforming and energizing our regulatory apparatus,” Bumenthal said. “Clearly what we’re doing right now is not working.”
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