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Twitter Has a Chinese Spy, Says Its Former Security Chief

The FBI told Twitter an agent from China’s Ministry of State Security was on its payroll, a Senate Judiciary Committee heard on Tuesday

Foreign spies were working for Twitter, the group's former security chief told a Senate panel on Tuesday.
Twitter did little about foreign spies working for the group, according to a former security chief. But his claims were rejected by the firm. This image shows the Twitter logo on a phone near a computer showing tweets that Chinese state agencies paid for to promote China, by Florence Lo, Reuters.


Twitter has a Chinese foreign agent working at the company who is likely collecting information for the Chinese Communist Party, its former security chief revealed on Tuesday.

The FBI contacted Twitter to inform them that an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security was on the payroll, former Security Lead Peiter Zatko, also known as “Mudge”, said in testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“It was disturbing to hear,” he said. “But it is very easy to place foreign agents inside Twitter, so I was not surprised about this.”


The Twitter Mission

“Foreign agents don’t just want access to user data. They also may want to know the plans of Twitter, like censoring information in a government, or conceding to a government’s request,” Zatko told the committee.

He cited other examples of foreign agents working at the company, with links to the Indian government and the Saudi Arabian royal family.

A foreign agent was recently placed at Twitter by India’s Bharatiya Janata Party, he said, in order to monitor an ongoing legal case between its government and Twitter about restricting certain content.


Catching Spies

“One of the disturbing things I saw at Twitter is a lack of ability to identify spies,” he said. “This means it is extremely difficult to understand exactly what they are doing.”

It is easy to place foreign agents inside Twitter, and valuable, he added. “If you are a foreign intelligence agency and you are not placing agents inside Twitter, you’re most likely not doing your job.”

Zatko claimed to have alerted a senior company executive of the Chinese spy, Insider reported, but was told, “What does it matter if we have even more [foreign agents]?”

Twitter later dismissed Zatko’s claims, the report said, claiming his allegations are “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.”


  • By Alfie Habershon



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Alfie Habershon

Alfie is a Reporter at Asia Financial. He previously lived in Mumbai reporting on India's economy and healthcare for data journalism initiative IndiaSpend, as well as having worked for London based Tortoise Media.


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