Centi billionaire Elon Musk took to Twitter to challenge the company’s CEO Parag Agrawal to a “public debate” about fake accounts and spam amid a contentious legal battle over a $44 billion acquisition.
Musk submitted a bid to the Securities and Exchange to buy Twitter back in April this year. After the companies agreed to move forward with a private deal, Musk said he was closing the acquisition, accusing Twitter of presenting false numbers, including in its SEC filings, related to the amount of revenue-generating 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 through as promised, and Musk filed counterclaims and countersuits there on July 29.
In a series of tweets that Musk began posting shortly before 1[ads1] a.m. Saturday, Aug. 6, Musk wrote interacted with a fan which had summarized his accusations about Twitter including that it shut him down and gave him “outdated data” and “a fake dataset” when he asked the company for details on how it tabulates mDAU, and estimates for spam and bot accounts.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO wrote“Good summary of the issue. If Twitter only provides their method of trying 100 accounts and how they are verified to be genuine, the deal should continue on original terms. But if it turns out their SEC filing is materially false, then it shouldn’t .”
Just after 9 o’clock Saturday morning, Musk started a Twitter survey asks his followers to vote on “[l]more than 5% of Twitter daily users are fake/spam.” Respondents to the informal poll could choose one of Musk’s stated answers which was either “Yes” followed by three robot emojis, or “Lmaooo no.” (The slang abbreviation “lmao” ” stands for “laughs at me.)
A source close to the company says that a debate will not happen outside of an ongoing court case.
Lawyers for Musk did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday, and a lawyer for Twitter declined to comment on Musk’s Saturday tweets.
Twitter’s lawyers have argued in court filings that Musk gave the company only twenty-four hours to accept his offer before he would present it directly to Twitter shareholders, waiving due diligence including a chance to seek more information about fake or spam accounts.
They wrote in court documents, “Musk’s repeated mischaracterizations of the merger agreement cannot change its plain wording.”
At a Tesla annual shareholder meeting 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 those in attendance, “Obviously I have to be a little careful about what I say about Twitter because there’s this trial and stuff.” He confirmed that the only two publicly traded securities he owns are Tesla and Twitter.
And then he spoke as if he still wants to own the social networking company, a stark contrast to arguments made by Musk via his lawyers in Delaware legal documents where Musk argues he shouldn’t have to go through with the deal.
At the Tesla 2022 shareholder meeting, Musk said: “I think in the case of Twitter, because 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 get it. product pretty well, so I think I have a good sense of where to point the engineering team at Twitter to make it radically better.”
He added that Twitter would “help accelerate” a “pretty grand vision” he had to build a business he’d 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 will help accelerate that by three to five years. So it’s kind of like something that I’ve thought would be quite useful for a long time. I know what to do. Don’t need Twitter for it, but like I said, it’s probably at least a three-year accelerator, and I think it’s something that will be very useful for the world.”
Musk did not go into any further details at that meeting. However, he reportedly said during a town hall meeting with Twitter employees in June of this year that he wanted to expand Twitter’s user base to one billion people and saw Twitter as a platform that could evolve into an app like China’s WeChat, a “super app,” which includes everything from messaging, video and social media, to mobile and point-of-sale payments, with a robust app ecosystem.
Unless they reach a settlement first, Twitter and Musk are headed for a five-day trial in Delaware starting on October 17. The judge deciding the case is Chancellor Kathaleen St. J. McCormick.