Elon Musk claims Twitter ordered whistle-blower to destroy evidence

Mr Peiter Zatko (left) has been at the centre of Mr Elon Musk's arguments that Twitter misled him about a raft of operational problems. PHOTOS: AFP

WILMINGTON, Delaware - Mr Elon Musk alleges that Twitter officials ordered a whistle-blower to destroy evidence of their missteps as part of a US$7.8 million (S$11.2 million) severance package at issue in a legal fight over the billionaire's attempt to cancel a buyout of the social media platform.

Mr Peiter Zatko, Twitter’s former head of security, said he burned 10 handwritten notebooks and deleted 100 computer files at the behest of company managers as part of his separation agreement, according to Oct 3 court filings that were unsealed on Monday.

The books contained notes of the whistle-blower’s meetings with company counterparts during his year-long tenure as security chief, the filings show.

Mr Zatko has been at the centre of Mr Musk's arguments that Twitter misled him about a raft of operational problems at the social media platform - which justified walking away from the US$44 billion buyout. The billionaire then reversed course last week and agreed to buy the company for the original price of US$54.20 a share.

"Twitter's attempt to buy Mr Zatko's silence failed, but Twitter achieved its secondary aim of ensuring Mr Zatko's corroborating evidence would never come to light," Mr Musk's lawyers said on Monday in the unsealed filing in Twitter's suit aimed at forcing Mr Musk to consummate the deal.

Twitter did not immediately respond to Mr Musk's allegations in the filing.

Delaware Chancery Judge Kathaleen McCormick put the case on hold last week and set an Oct 28 deadline for Mr Musk and Twitter to complete the deal. Mr Musk's lawyers are asking Judge McCormick to sanction Twitter's attorneys for ordering the destruction of potential evidence in the case.

Mr Zatko created a stir in Washington when he testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee last month that Twitter's lax approach to computer security threatened the national security of the United States.

Twitter has said it fired Mr Zatko in January for poor performance and said he gave "a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context". BLOOMBERG

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