- Twitter has long had a reputation for being poorly run.
- Many are linked to co-founder Jack Dorsey, who is reportedly known for absenteeism and indecisiveness, critics say.
A new whistleblower complaint exposes a long-whispered assertion: Twitter is mismanaged.
The complaint by Twitter’s former head of security, Peter Zatko, accused the company of widespread mismanagement and “flagrant flaws” in security protocols. The complaint also describes Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey as “distracted” and “out of control.”
Zatko’s accusations have roiled Twitter and his public opinion, while giving Elon Musk fresh ammunition as he battles Twitter over whether to buy the company and how much it costs.
Critics say Twitter’s troubles started with Dorsey. It has been his Achilles’ heel since he was fired as CEO in 2008, reportedly for spending too much time on fashion design and yoga classes.
Since then, his reputation as a visionary has been tarnished by reports depicting him as an absent, uncommunicative, indecisive leader who at times delegated important decisions to others in the company. In the early days of Twitter, he was known for not liking criticism and enjoying taking credit for himself, as noted by The Verge, citing the 2013 book Hatching Twitter.
Seven years after leaving Twitter’s leadership role in 2008, Dorsey was rehired as CEO after his predecessor, Dick Costolo, took over most of the leadership, took the company public and failed to turn a profit.
Before returning to Twitter, Dorsey launched Square, now called Block. He remained Square’s CEO when he regained his top job at Twitter.
His dual CEO status, rare in the business world, has come under fire. Some have wondered how a leader can effectively run two companies at the same time.
In early 2020, hedge fund Elliott Management bought a significant stake in Twitter. The firm pushed for changes to the company, including firing Dorsey, adding new board members, and accelerating the pace of innovation.
Later that year, after a massive hack that affected 130 known Twitter profiles, Dorsey reportedly hired Zatko, the security chief, who filed an 84-page whistleblower complaint in July.
In its response to Zatko’s complaint, Twitter reported that CEO Parag Agrawal fired Zatko due to “poor performance and leadership.”
Dorsey did not respond to a request for comment and has yet to publicly respond to the whistleblower’s claims.
In a statement to Insider, a Twitter spokesperson said Zatko’s complaint was “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies” and constituted a “false narrative” about the company. “Security and privacy have long been company-wide priorities at Twitter and will continue to be,” they added.
In late 2021, Dorsey left Twitter for the second time and appointed Agrawal, a company veteran with little leadership experience, to the CEO position. He and Dorsey saw eye to eye on social media’s move towards decentralization. But Wall Street was disappointed that an insider took over the reins rather than an outsider who could really rock the company.
Twitter has long struggled to achieve profitability and grow its user base, much to the dismay of Wall Street. Earlier this year, Twitter admitted that it screwed up its monthly active user count, a metric so important that the Securities and Exchange Commission started sniffing it out.
Dorsey Was ‘Suspended’ and Silent in Meetings, Whistleblower Claims
Zatko’s complaint accuses the CEO of displaying “absent behavior” and “abrupt loss of concentration” in his last year as CEO of Twitter.
Zatko also said that Dorsey was a “distant” leader who only “occasionally” showed up at meetings, and when he did, sometimes didn’t say a word. He sometimes went missing and did not respond to his commands for “days or weeks,” the complaint said.
The higher authorities were worried about his health and tried to cover him up, but “even the middle and lower ranks could tell that the ship was without a rudder,” the complaint says.
The complaint alleges that Agrawal instructed Zatko to prepare misleading documents for Twitter’s board of directors that would mitigate the company’s security flaws. The complaint also alleged that Twitter lied about executives being interested in finding spam accounts on the platform, and that an executive admitted to the board that the company had “intentionally and knowingly deprioritized” due to the health of the platform in order to increase the number of monetized daily active users.
In short, Zatko, a respected figure in Silicon Valley, went on record about the problems with Twitter’s leadership, shouting from mountaintops some of the complaints that have long been made against Dorsey and Twitter’s leadership.
The concrete effect of Zatko’s Twitter complaint remains to be seen, but it could affect the company’s legal battle with Elon Musk.
As for Dorsey, most of the pressure is behind him – he can now be seen sailing on a yacht in Spain.