Elon Musk wants to force Twitter to share much more data on its users in order to verify that the social network is not lying about the fake accounts present among its subscribers.
Lawyers for Elon Musk and Twitter on Wednesday gave an overview of the arguments they could make during the trial to force, or not, the entrepreneur to buy the social network, summoning among other things the recent revelations of a pitcher alert. Elon Musk’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 .
“Billions of billions of data”
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 Elon Musk contacted Twitter about a potential acquisition.” Even if Twitter granted all of Elon Musk’s requests, it would represent “billions and billions of data”, Bradley Wilson pointed out. And this could violate the rules of the platform, or even certain laws, concerning the protection of private data.
The platform could possibly share with Elon Musk – and not with the general public – limited data relating to 9,000 accounts and a quarter, he conceded. But Elon Musk’s team probably mostly wants to be able to “do their own count and see if they can come up with a different number.”
Elon Musk’s team is not the only one to want clarification on the subject: according to a document made public on Wednesday, the American Market Regulation Authority (SEC) also asked Twitter in mid-June to provide him with details on his method of identifying fake accounts and other spam. Elon 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 stagnation or even a decline. , of its activity.
But Twitter has always indicated in its financial results that it takes into account other criteria to assess 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, insisted 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 we say [Peiter] Zatko, management had no desire to properly measure bot prevalence [comptes gérés par un logiciel et non un humain, ndlr] because of shareholder groups, because of bonuses,” he said. His team asked to have the whistleblower testify but Twitter, which fired him in January, refused, arguing that this was “irrelevant”, lamented the lawyer.A Senate committee, on the other hand, considered it important to hear 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 deploring the “misguided view” presented by Peiter Zatko, according to US media. The judge did not say when she would make her decision.