So where are we at in the ever-evolving Twitter versus Elon Musk saga?
This week, Musk’s lawyers have once again sought to delay the October trial, in order to give themselves more time to establish their case for exiting Musk’s original $44 billion Twitter takeover deal.
Following the recent allegations from former Twitter security chief Peter Zatko that Twitter had misled the market about its performance, and has glaring security flaws, Musk’s team has been seeking to meet with Zatko to glean more insight for its case. The court has ruled that Zatko’s claims will be admissible in the Musk/Twitter case, but the application to delay the trial has once again been denied due to concerns that any further delays could risk further harm to Twitter itself.
Musk’s team also sought to delay the trial back in July, pushing for a February 2023 hearing, at the earliest, but Delaware’s Court of Chancery instead agreed with Twitter’s view that an expedited trial in October would be best.
Late last month, Zatko, also known as ‘Mudge’, leveled a range of allegations against his former employer, including the suggestion that Twitter executives deceived federal regulators, deliberately mislead the company’s own board, and lied about the presence of bots and spam on the service.
The latter is likely what Musk’s team is especially keen on, with Musk seeking to abandon his Twitter takeover deal on the premise that the amount of bots and spam on the service is actually far higher than Twitter itself has reported. Twitter says that bots and spam make up 5% of its 238 million daily active users, while various external researchers have suggested this number is significantly higher, with one expert even suggesting that 80% of Twitter accounts are fake.
Which seems pretty high. Musk’s team, based on its own assessment, thinks that the bot/spam rate is more like 27%, but most people seem to believe that 5% is probably too low, and that Twitter’s method for calculating such (Twitter samples around 9k accounts each quarter, equivalent to 0.0038% of Twitter’s total audience) is likely not the most indicative process.
It seems that Musk and Co. will be hoping to use insight from Zatko to reinforce their claims on this front – though as Twitter’s legal team has repeatedly noted, it may well be irrelevant either way, because Musk agreed to take over the company essentially as is, with very few provisions for exiting the deal based on questions around its metrics of processes.
So maybe Musk and Co. are going to a lot of effort to prove something that ultimately won’t change the verdict.
On the flip side, Twitter has continued to subpoena a range of Musk’s allies, in an effort to strengthen its case that Musk has simply changed his mind about the deal, and is now looking to wriggle out of his commitments.
On this front, Twitter has referenced a text message that Musk sent to his banker in early May, in which Musk urged him to ‘slow down’ the Twitter deal due to concerns, at the time, that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may spark a global conflict.
“It won’t make sense to buy Twitter if we’re heading into World War 3.”
Musk had already agreed to purchase Twitter at this stage, and there’s no mechanism for ‘slowing down’ a deal, as such.
Twitter says that this exchange is indicative of Musk’s approach, that he simply got cold feet and decided he wanted out, and that he’s been looking for loopholes ever since.
It does still seem like Twitter’s legal team has the high ground, with the specifics of the original agreement set to form the basis of the court’s ruling, not speculation and/or conjecture from jaded ex-employees.
But we’ll soon (thankfully) find out either way, with the Musk v Twitter court battle still set to get underway in around six weeks time.