Twitter paid its former security head Peiter Zatko nearly $7 million to keep him quiet, Elon Musk’s lawyer claimed at a hearing on Tuesday.
Zatko, who is also known as ‘’Mudge’’ among hackers, filed a whistleblower complaint in July, accusing Twitter of misleading authorities on how it defends its platform against spam accounts and hacker attacks.
The payment was brought to the table by Elon Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, at a hearing that took place this Tuesday. “They’re paying the guy $7 million and making sure he’s quiet,” said Spiro.
As reported by the Wall Street Journal yesterday, people familiar with the matter confirmed the payment, saying it was part of the settlement between Zatko and Twitter, related to his lost compensation after he was fired in January.
The settlement was completed just before Zatko filed his whistleblower complaint, the WSJ reported. The sources said that while the agreement prevented Zatko from speaking publicly about his time at the company, it would let him serve as a governmental whistleblower. He will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 13.
Twitter sued Elon Musk in July for terminating his $44 billion offer to buy the social media company. He also countersued the company soon after, accusing it of not being transparent about the fake and bot accounts on its platform.
During Tuesday’s hearing, the Delaware judge allowed Musk to amend his countersuit adding Zatko’s whistleblower complaint. Musk’s lawyer also requested the judge to postpone the trial from October 17 to November, but it was rejected.
While discussing the $7 million payment, Twitter’s attorneys questioned Zatko’s reliability, arguing that his complaint could be derived from his desires to hurt the social media company for having been fired.
However, Musk’s lawyer Spiro argued that he could have just walked away if what he wanted was money, not justice.
“The problem is that they paid him $7 million,” he said. “The problem is that if he really wanted money, then how come he’s still doing this if he doesn’t want justice also.”