OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Elon Musk’s legal battle with Twitter continues and he just scored another major victory in court against the company.
On Wednesday a judge ruled that the Tesla CEO can use information obtained by a whistleblower in his case against the website, The Daily Wire reported.
Twitter is currently battling Musk in court over his attempt to nix a previous offer to buy the company for $44 billion. Musk claims that the true number of fake accounts on the platform could number as high as 33% rather than the company’s reported 5%, with a lower number of monetizable daily active users potentially justifying a lower valuation. A trial to determine the status of the acquisition deal is scheduled for October 17.
Although she did not amend the date of the trial, Delaware Chancery Court Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick granted attorneys representing Musk permission to use the account of former Twitter executive Peiter “Mudge” Zatko — who claimed in a recent whistleblower account that his colleagues did not have the resources or motivation necessary to determine the number of bots on the platform — in their arguments.
Twitter reported losses of $0.08 per share in its second-quarter earnings, falling below the $0.14 gain per share expected by analysts. The rough quarter was attributable to “advertising industry headwinds associated with the macroenvironment as well as uncertainty related to the pending acquisition of Twitter by an affiliate of Elon Musk,” the company said in a press release.
According to leading cyber security specialist Dan Woods, who formerly worked for the FBI and CIA, as many as 80 percent of Twitter accounts are bots, The Australian reported.
“Sure sounds higher than 5%!” Musk wrote on the platform in response to Woods’ findings.
Sure sounds higher than 5%!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2022
“More than 80 per cent of Twitter accounts are likely bots, according to former CIA and FBI cyber security specialist Dan Woods, who created a fake profile and quickly gained more than 100,000 fake followers in one weekend by purchasing them on the dark web,” the outlet reported.
“Mr Woods, who studies bot traffic as part of his current role with global cyber security provider F5, told The Australian that Twitter’s bot traffic was almost certainly far greater than it has expressed publicly and greater than it believes internally,” the outlet continued.
“I’m not a programmer, but I watched YouTube and in a weekend I wrote a script that automatically creates accounts on Twitter without encountering any obstacles,” he told the outlet.
“There’s huge demand (for bots), there’s a marketplace to serve that demand, and if I can write a bot that creates accounts on Twitter, and I’m not even a programmer, imagine what a sophisticated programmer could do,” he continued.
“Twitter doesn’t want (its number of bots) to be that high, so they’re going through the motions of canceling some accounts,” Woods added.
“I’m not saying they’re lying, but we’ve really studied these accounts and we’ve come to the conclusion that there are a lot more fake accounts than Twitter is letting on,” he noted further.
He said that allowing large numbers of bot accounts on Twitter and other major social media platforms is dangerous because it gives foreign malign actors and hostile governments a means to influence and manipulate another country’s political processes.
Musk filed paperwork earlier this summer to back out of the $44 billion offer he made to purchase the platform after he said Twitter executives were not being transparent about fake accounts. Twitter sued Musk afterward, and the case is pending in Delaware.
He and his legal team have suggested that the number of bot accounts may be as high as 33 percent, far more than the 5 percent Twitter has claimed.
Last month, Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, Twitter’s former head of security who was personally hired by Twitter founder and then-CEO Jack Dorsey, said in an explosive interview that current management has not been upfront and honest with Musk regarding the number of fake, bot, and spam accounts on the platform.