Centi-billionaire Elon Musk has provoked Twitter and challenged company CEO Parag Agrawal to a ‘public debate’ over fake accounts and spam amid a contentious legal battle over a $44 billion acquisition.
Musk filed an offer with the Securities and Exchange to acquire Twitter in April of this year. After the companies agreed to move forward with a privatization deal, Musk said he was ending his acquisition and accused Twitter of presenting false numbers, including in his filings with the SEC, regarding the number of monetizable daily active users and the number of spam and bot accounts on the social network.
Twitter then sued Musk in a Delaware Chancery court to ensure the deal would go ahead as promised, and Musk filed counterclaims and a countersuit on July 29.
In a series of tweets that Musk began posting just before 1 a.m. on Saturday August 6, Musk interacted with a fan who had summed up his accusations about Twitter, including that it was obstructing it and giving it ‘outdated data’ and ‘a fake data set’ when he asked the company for details of how it mDAU tab, and estimates for spam and bot accounts.
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX wrote“Good summary of the issue. If Twitter simply provides its method of sampling 100 accounts and how they are confirmed to be real, the deal should continue under the original terms. However, if their statements to the SEC are materially false, so it shouldn’t.”
Just after 9 a.m. Saturday morning, Musk launched a poll on Twitter asking his supporters to vote on whether “[l]Less than 5% of daily Twitter users are fake/spam.” Respondents to the informal poll could choose one of the answers provided by Musk which read either “Yes” followed by three bot emoji or “Lmaooo no.” (The slang abbreviation “lmao” means “laugh my a– off.)
A source close to the company says a debate will not take place outside of an ongoing trial.
Musk’s attorneys did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday, and a Twitter attorney declined to comment on Musk’s tweets on Saturday.
Twitter lawyers have argued in court filings that Musk only gave the company twenty-four hours to accept his offer before taking it directly to Twitter shareholders, and waived due diligence, including the ability to search for more information about fake or spam accounts.
They wrote in court documents: “Musk’s repeated mischaracterizations of the merger agreement cannot change its plain terms.”
At a Tesla annual meeting of shareholders on Aug. 4, Musk was asked to talk about Twitter during a question-and-answer session that followed a proxy vote.
He said, drawing laughter from the audience, “I obviously have to be a little careful what I say about Twitter because there’s this lawsuit and stuff.” He confirmed that the only two publicly traded stocks he owns are Tesla and Twitter.
And then he spoke as if he still wanted to own the social networking company, a stark contrast to arguments made by Musk via his lawyers in legal documents in Delaware in which Musk argues he shouldn’t have to. conclude the agreement.
At Tesla’s 2022 shareholder meeting, Musk said, “I think in the case of Twitter, since I use it a lot, I’m shooting myself in the foot a lot, you know, digging my grave, etc. I think it’s – I understand the product pretty well, so I think I have a good idea of where to direct Twitter’s engineering team to radically improve it.”
He added that Twitter would “help accelerate” a “pretty grand vision” he had for building a company he had been thinking about since his early years as a tech entrepreneur, X.com or X Corporation.
“Obviously it could be started from scratch,” he said, “but I think Twitter would help speed that up by three to five years. So it’s kind of like something that I thought was pretty useful for a long time I know what I don’t need to have twitter for this but like I said it’s probably at least a three year accelerator and I think that’s something which will be very useful to the world.
Musk did not go into specifics during this meeting. However, he reportedly said at a public meeting with Twitter employees in June this year that he wanted to expand Twitter’s user base to one billion people and saw Twitter as a platform that could grow into an app like China’s WeChat, a “super app,” that integrates everything from messaging, video and social media to mobile payments and point-of-sale, with a robust app ecosystem.
Unless they reach a settlement first, Twitter and Musk are headed for a five-day trial in Delaware that begins Oct. 17. The judge deciding the case is Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick.