Hundred-billionaire Elon Musk challenged Twitter and challenged the company’s CEO Parag Agrawal to a “public debate” about fake accounts and spam amid a contentious legal battle over a $44 billion takeover.
Musk submitted an offer to the Securities and Exchange to acquire Twitter in April this year. After the companies agreed to proceed with a take-private deal, Musk said he was ending his acquisition and accused Twitter of presenting false numbers, including in SEC filings, about 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 court to ensure the deal goes through as promised, and Musk filed counterclaims and a counterclaim there on July 29.
In a series of tweets that Musk began posting shortly before 1 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6, Musk interacted with a fan who had summarized his accusations of Twitter, including that it was blocking him and giving him, “stale data” and “a fake dataset”, when he asked the company for details on how mDAU was classified and estimates of spam and accounts bot.
The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX wrote“Good summary of the problem. If Twitter simply provides the method of sampling 100 accounts and how to verify they are real, the deal should go forward on the original terms. However, if the SEC filings prove to be substantially false, then you shouldn’t”.
Shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday, Musk started a poll on Twitter asking his followers to vote on whether “[l]Over 5% of daily Twitter users are fake/spam.” Respondents to the informal poll could choose one of Musk’s answers that read either “Yes” followed by three robot emojis or “Lmaooo no.” (The slang abbreviation “lmao” means “I laugh a–off.”)
Musk’s lawyers did not respond to requests for comment Saturday, and a Twitter lawyer declined to comment on Musk’s tweets Saturday. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.
At a Tesla annual shareholder meeting on Aug. 4, Musk was invited to talk about Twitter during a question-and-answer session that followed proxy voting.
He said, drawing laughs from the audience in attendance, “Obviously I have to be a little careful what I say on Twitter because there’s this lawsuit and stuff.” He confirmed that the only two publicly traded stocks are Tesla and Twitter.
And then he spoke as if he still wants to own the social media company, in stark contrast to the arguments Musk has made through his lawyers in legal cases in Delaware, where Musk argues he shouldn’t go ahead with the deal.
At Tesla’s 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 own grave and so on. I think it’s — I understand the product is pretty good, so I think I have a good idea of where to direct the engineering team at Twitter to make it radically better.”
He added that Twitter will “help accelerate” a “very big vision” he’s had to build a business he’s been thinking about since his early days as a tech entrepreneur, X.com, or X Corporation.
“Obviously this could start from scratch,” he said, “but I think Twitter would help accelerate it by three to five years. So it’s kind of like something that I thought would be very useful for a long time. I know what I don’t you need to have Twitter for that, but, like I said, it’s probably at least a three-year accelerator, and I think it’s something that’s going to be very useful in the world.”
Musk did not elaborate on that meeting. However, he is reported to have said during a town hall met with Twitter officials in June this year that he wanted to grow 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” that integrates everything from messaging, video and social media, to mobile payments and point of sale, with a robust app ecosystem.
If they don’t 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.