Elon Musk’s lawyers cite whistleblower, blow up Twitter in court
Elon Musk’s legal team cited a whistleblower complaint from the ex-Twitter security chief — accusing the site of making up “shackles” to prevent spam account data from being passed on during a heated court hearing on Wednesday.
Musk attorney Alex Spiro took advantage of accusations from Twitter’s former chief of security Petier “Mudge” Zatko, who accused the company in a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint made public Tuesday of “lying about bots to Elon Musk.”
“As Mr. Zatko puts it, management had no desire to accurately measure spam accounts,” Spiro said during the Delaware Chancery Court hearing. “They have economic incentives to deceive.”
Zatko’s whistleblower complaint accused Twitter executives of bots being overlooked because they were offered bonuses to report higher user numbers. Twitter has denied the claims, calling Zatko’s report a “false story” that is “riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies”.
Elon Musk’s lawyers dismissed Twitter’s privacy concerns as “boogeymen”. AFP via Getty Images
Wednesday’s 90-minute hearing focused on an attempt by Musk’s legal team to convince Judge Kathaleen McCormick to let Twitter transfer massive amounts of data used to measure fake accounts as the mogul tries to walk away from the deal. of $44 billion to buy the social media site.
Musk’s team previously tried to sue Zatko and a number of other current and former Twitter executives, but McCormick turned down the request.
However, Spiro urged McCormick to reconsider her decision about Zatko because “he was one of the best officers in the company” and was responsible for “processing and removing several spam bots”.
Musk’s team wants Twitter to transfer information, including users’ IP addresses, phone numbers, and geolocation data, which would help analyze Twitter’s bot problem. The Post first reported that Twitter was looking for geolocation data.
Twitter wants to force Musk to go through with a deal to buy the site for $44 billion. AFP via Getty Images
Twitter told the judge it is not required to give the data to Musk, citing privacy concerns and other concerns.
“This data is subject to overlapping security laws, both in the United States and in the European Union and elsewhere,” said Twitter attorney Bradley Wilson. “There is also the practical reality that if all this data were transferred, Twitter would lose control of it… private messages could be exposed.”
Spiro responded back by saying, “Privacy concerns are not at the expense of the buyer’s rights.”
“None of these ogre concerns are real,” he added, arguing that hospital buyers are still entitled to business data despite privacy concerns.
The hearing ended without McCormick making a statement. The trial is scheduled to begin on October 17.
Twitter did not return a request for comment.
Zatko’s whistleblower complaint, filed last month but made public a day before the discovery hearing, contained a litany of alleged problems, including everything from misleading the Federal Trade Commission to allowing an Indian government agent “access to huge amounts of sensitive Twitter data”. .”
Still, some analysts and legal experts are skeptical that Zatko’s complaint will make a big difference in Musk’s lawsuit.
Investment analyst and ex-corporate attorney JB Heaton told The Post of Zatko’s complaint, “I don’t see how people can point to anything that would take Musk out of the deal.”
Nevertheless, Twitter shares fell more than 7% on Tuesday after news of Zatko’s report. After the court hearing, Twitter share recovered 2.3% to close at $40.79.
After the hearing concluded, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that Zatko will testify on September 13.
“Mr. Zatko’s allegations of widespread security breaches and interference by foreign state actors on Twitter are a matter of serious concern. If true, these claims could reveal dangerous data privacy and security risks for Twitter users around the world,” said Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the chairman and top Republican on the committee.