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Federal agencies are reportedly investigating Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk over his bid to purchase Twitter, according to legal filings by attorneys representing the company.
According to reports, it isn’t clear what federal authorities are investigating. But one report also noted that Twitter is seeking documents related to the probes, though it isn’t clear what is being sought, specifically. The request for documents was filed after Musk said he would buy the platform, the Washington Examiner reported.
“Elon Musk is presently under investigation by federal authorities for his conduct in connection with the acquisition of Twitter,” Twitter’s legal team said in an Oct. 6 legal filing with a Delaware court, according to Bloomberg. In addition, Twitter lawyers asked that Musk’s team also provide the same documents because they “bear upon key issues in this litigation.”
Earlier this month, Musk changed direction and offered to proceed with his original offer to buy Twitter, one of the world’s largest social media platforms. According to reports, Twitter trading on Wall Street halted after Musk’s announcement to go through with his original bid of $54.20 a share.
“Twitter shares jumped as much as 15% on Tuesday after Bloomberg first reported on the Tesla CEO’s plans to go forth with his deal to acquire the company. The stock was halted after the report,” CNBC reported at the time.
A few weeks after Musk agreed to the deal earlier this year, valuing Twitter at $44 billion, he quickly tried to back out, officially informing the company in July of his intentions to terminate the agreement. Twitter sued Musk to force him to go through with the purchase. The two sides were scheduled to go to trial in Delaware Chancery Court on Oct. 17.
Musk alleged that Twitter was misstating the number of “bots” on its service as one of the reasons he was reneging on the deal. He and his lawyers claimed that the social media company was misleading investors by providing false numbers in corporate filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Twitter countered, however, that Musk’s assertions of fraud were incorrect and were based on a misunderstanding of the way the company tallies bots and fake accounts on its platform.
As recently as last month, it appeared as though the deal was off following an explosive report that alleged many more accounts on Twitter were fake.
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.
“More than 80 percent 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 on 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.”
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.