Elon Musk’s legal team has subpoenaed former Twitter chief of security and whistleblower Peiter “Mudge” Zatko to appear for a statement in his legal battle against Twitter over their September 9 acquisition deal.
The subpoena, sent Thursday and publicly filed Monday, comes days after Zatko publicly blasted the social media company, alleging it has serious privacy and security concerns that could endanger users, investors and U.S. national security. The timing of the disclosure is coincidental for Musk, who is fighting a lawsuit from Twitter (TWTR) seeking to force him to go through with his $44 billion deal to buy the company after trying to terminate the deal over claims that Twitter (TWTR) has more spam and fake bot accounts than it publicly discloses. The case will go to court in October.
In the disclosure, Zatko claimed that Twitter does not have an accurate count of the number of spam and fake bot accounts on its platform and that the company has little incentive to fully count such accounts, allegations that could polish Musk’s claims. Twitter has criticized Zatko and pushed back his accusations in general, saying the disclosure paints a “false story” from the company and is “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies”.
Musk attorney Alex Spiro told CNN last week that they had sued Zatko in the case before his whistleblower complaint was made public. In a court hearing in the case last Wednesday, Spiro mentioned Zatko several times. Spiro suggested at the hearing that the billionaire’s team does not trust Twitter’s estimate for spam accounts and monetizable daily active users (mDAU), a key metric it provides to investors, and said Musk’s team is asking for information. with which they can test the measurements.
The new subpoena is yet another indication of how Zatko’s allegations could affect the case. In addition to the impeachment, Musk’s team also demanded in Thursday’s subpoena “books, documents or tangible things in your possession” related to Twitter’s counting of spam and fake accounts and the use of mDAU as a key statistic.
“Mr. Zatko will comply with his legal obligations under that subpoena and his appearance at the impeachment is involuntary,” Zatko’s attorneys, Debra Katz and Alexis Ronickher, said in a statement Monday. “He has not made his whistleblower disclosures to the appropriate government agencies to benefit Musk or harm Twitter, but rather to protect the American public and Twitter shareholders.”
Zatko will also testify about his allegations at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Sept. 13.