First round before the big trial. Lawyers for Elon Musk and Twitter on Wednesday gave an overview of the arguments they could make in court to force, or not, the entrepreneur to buy the social network. The billionaire’s representative tried to convince the judge in charge of the case, Kathaleen McCormick, to force Twitter to share much more data on its users in order to verify that the social network was not lying about the fake accounts present among its subscribers.
But the billionaire only wants them to arrange them in his own way and above all, should have asked for them before agreeing to buy the company, retorted the platform’s lawyer, Bradley Wilson. The two parties were convened to discuss the information to be shared before the trial scheduled for October. Elon Musk’s team asks for broader access to the method and data used by Twitter to calculate the proportion of fake accounts and spam, estimated at less than 5% by the platform, to much more by the entrepreneur .
But this request is not “relevant”, retorted the lawyer for Twitter, because the platform has always, in official documents, presented this figure as “an estimate”. And the latest was published in February, “before Mr. Musk contacted Twitter about a potential acquisition.”
Even if Twitter acceded to all of Elon Musk’s requests, it would represent “billions and billions of data,” said Bradley Wilson. And this could violate the rules of the platform, or even certain laws, concerning the protection of private data.
Limited data provided by Twitter?
Twitter could potentially share limited data with Elon Musk — not the general public — covering 9,000 accounts and one quarter, he conceded. But the Tesla and Space X founder’s team probably mostly wants to be able to “do their own count and see if they can come up with a different number.” Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, has also accused the platform of publicly highlighting in its financial results the number of so-called “monetizable” daily active users rather than other criteria showing a stagnation, or even a decline, in his activity.
Opposite, Twitter has always indicated in its financial results that it takes into account other criteria to evaluate its performance, even if the group does not necessarily detail them, replied the lawyer for the social network. “They have an economic incentive to deceive” investors, retorted Alex Spiro before mentioning the complaint of a whistleblower, former chief of security of the platform, sent to the American authorities at the beginning of July and made public Tuesday.
“As (Peiter) Zatko says, management had no desire to correctly measure the prevalence of bots (accounts managed by software and not a human, editor’s note) because of shareholder groups, because of bonuses”, he advanced. His team asked to have the whistleblower testify but Twitter, which fired him in January, refused, arguing that it was “irrelevant”, lamented the lawyer.
A Senate committee, on the other hand, deemed it important to hear from this former hacker, also known as “Mudge”, summoned for a hearing on September 13. The whistleblower’s accusations were also mentioned during a Twitter management meeting with employees on Wednesday, with the company boss lamenting the “wrong view” presented by Peiter Zatko, according to US media.