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Elon Musk and Twitter Brace for Legal Fight: All You Need to Know

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Twitter are bracing for a legal fight after the billionaire said Friday he was abandoning his $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,37,465 crore) bid for the social media company.

Twitter is vowing to challenge Musk in court to uphold the agreement. Shares of Twitter slid more than 11 percent on Monday. Here’s a look at what could happen next.

Why is musk backing out?

There are a lot of reasons why Musk might have had second thoughts. But he alleged Friday that Twitter has failed to provide enough information about the number of fake accounts it has.

Twitter said last month that it was making available to Musk a “firehose” of public raw data on hundreds of millions of daily tweets. But Musk’s lawyers have argued that the company was providing Musk with sometimes “incomplete or unusable information” and less data than it offers some of its big customers.

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Twitter said last week it uses a mix of public and private data to determine the amount of spam. Private user data isn’t available publicly and thus isn’t in the data “firehose” that it gave Musk. That would include IP addresses, phone numbers and location. Twitter said such private data helps avoid misidentifying real accounts as spam.

Twitter has said for years in regulatory filings that it believes about 5 percent of the accounts on the platform are fake. But on Monday Musk continued to taunt the company, using Twitter, over what he has described as a lack of data.

What is twitter’s response?

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Twitter declared its intent to sue Musk. The company could have pushed for a $1 billion (roughly Rs. 162 crore) breakup fee that Musk agreed to pay under these circumstances. Instead, it looks ready to fight to complete the purchase, which the company’s board has approved and CEO Parag Agrawal has insisted he wants to consummate.

The chair of Twitter’s board, Bret Taylor, tweeted Friday that the board is “committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon” with Musk and “plans to pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement. We are confident we will prevail in the Delaware Court of Chancery.”

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The trial court in Delaware frequently handles business disputes among the many corporations, including Twitter, that are incorporated there.

Who’s going to win?

It’s almost impossible to predict the outcome of any protracted legal battle. But law and business experts believe Twitter likely has the stronger case.

Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi noted that Twitter has described its estimate of fake and spam accounts for years in regulatory filings while explicitly noting that the number might not be accurate given the use of data samples and interpretation.

Given current market conditions, Mogharabi said, Twitter may also have a solid argument that the layoffs and firings of the past weeks represent “an ordinary course of business.”

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“Many technology firms have begun to control costs by reducing headcount and/or delaying adding employees,” he said. “The resignations of Twitter employees cannot with certainty be attributed to any change in how Twitter has operated since Musk’s offer was accepted by the board and shareholders.”

See also  Twitter Says 50-60 Percent of Tweets in Government Takedown Orders Are 'Innocuous': Details

The case could also end in a settlement, for instance with the two sides negotiating a lower price. If Musk wins, there’s also the question of the $1 billion breakup fee. He can certainly afford it, but will he want to pay?

What happens to Twitter now?

The Musk saga has been, to put it mildly, a distraction for Twitter’s workers, executives and even users. Some employees have quit, while others were laid off or fired. Job offers have been rescinded and discretionary spending curtailed.

“For Twitter this fiasco is a nightmare scenario,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives, who follows the company, wrote Monday. He said the result would be “an Everest-like uphill climb for Parag & Co.” given concerns over employee morale and retention, advertiser concerns and other challenges.”

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Twitter itself is unlikely to go anywhere regardless of whether or not it changes hands. But if the turmoil continues it could scare away advertisers. If too many engineers and other employees leave, the platform’s quality could suffer as well.

“The one bright spot is that if (Twitter) is ultimately victorious in the courts, it could potentially take north of the $1 billion in break-up fees that Musk could have to pay,” said CFRA analyst Angelo Zino.

If he loses, will musk comply?

Even if Musk loses the court case, some observers wonder if the world’s richest man will abide by the outcome. That’s in part based on his antagonistic approach to unfavourable actions from the US Securities and Exchange Commission over Musk’s tweets claiming he had the funding to take Tesla private in 2018.

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That led to a securities fraud settlement with the SEC requiring that his tweets be approved by a Tesla attorney before being published. But the SEC later investigated whether the Tesla CEO violated the settlement with tweets last November asking Twitter followers if he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock.

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Musk had argued that the agency can’t take action about his tweets without court authorization. This time, however, he could very well face an actual court order to pay the $1 billion breakup fee — or to finish the acquisition even if he doesn’t want to.


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WhatsApp Reveals Critical Vulnerabilities in Older App Versions That Let Attacker Exploit Phones via Video Call

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WhatsApp, Meta’s instant messaging and calling service, has published details of a ‘critical’ vulnerability that has been patched in a newer version of the app but might still affect older installed versions that have not been updated.

The details regarding the vulnerability were revealed in a September update of WhatsApp‘s page on security advisories affecting the app and came to light on September 23.

WhatsApp, in the update, shared a detailed issue related to vulnerability CVE-2022-36934, according to which “an integer overflow in WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.22.16.12, Business for Android prior to v2.22.16.12, iOS prior to v2.22.16.12, Business for iOS prior to v2.22.16.12 could result in remote code execution in an established video call.”

According to the details, the bug would let an attacker exploit integer overflow, after which they can get access to execute their own code on a victim’s smartphone through a specially crafted video call.

This vulnerability has been given a severity score of 9.8 out of 10 on the CVE scale.

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In the same security advisory update, WhatsApp also explained another vulnerability, CVE-2022-27492. According to the social media company, “an integer underflow in WhatsApp for Android prior to v2.22.16.2, WhatsApp for iOS v2.22.15.9 could have caused remote code execution when receiving a crafted video file.”

This said, the bug would let attackers execute the code on the victim’s smartphone using a malicious video file. The vulnerability was scored 7.8 out of 10.

In an India-related development for the social media platform, the head of WhatsApp’s India payment business, Manesh Mahatme, has quit after more than a year with the Meta Platforms-owned company to join Amazon India, a source told Reuters on Thursday.

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Mahatme’s exit comes at a critical time for WhatsApp, which is seeking to ramp up its payments service in a highly competitive market and lock horns with more established players such as Alphabet’s Google Pay, Ant Group-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe.

During his stint at WhatsApp Pay, the company won regulatory approval to more than double its payments offering to 100 million users in India, its biggest market with more than half a billion users overall.

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Elon Musk Seeks to End Pre-Approval of His Tweets, Calls SEC Mandate “Government-Imposed Muzzle”

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Elon Musk’s lawyers urged a federal appeals court to throw out a provision in his 2018 consent decree with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) requiring a Tesla lawyer to vet some of his posts on Twitter.

In a brief filed late on Tuesday with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, lawyers for Musk called the pre-approval mandate a “government-imposed muzzle” that inhibited and chilled his lawful speech on a broad range of topics.

They also said the requirement violated the US Constitution, and undermined public policy by running “contrary to the American principles of free speech and open debate.”

The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside market hours. It is expected to file its own brief with the appeals court.

Musk wants to overturn part of an April 27 decision by US District Judge Lewis Liman that rejected his bid to throw out the consent decree altogether.

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Liman said Musk’s arguments amounted to a “bemoaning” of requirements he no longer wanted to adhere to now that “his company has become, in his estimation, all but invincible.”

Musk, 51, is worth $259.8 billion (roughly Rs. 21,25,878 crore), nearly twice as much as anyone else, Forbes magazine said on Wednesday.

The decree resolved a lawsuit accusing Musk of defrauding investors with an August 7, 2018 tweet that he had “funding secured” to take his electric car company private, though a buyout was not close. Musk has said the tweet was truthful.

In settling, Musk agreed to let a Tesla lawyer screen tweets that might contain material information about the company.

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He and Tesla each also paid $20 million (roughly Rs. 163 crore) in civil fines, and Musk gave up his role as Tesla chairman.

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But the SEC later opened a probe and subpoenaed documents concerning Musk’s and Tesla’s compliance, after Musk asked his followers in a November 6, 2021 tweet whether he should sell 10 percent of his Tesla stake to cover tax bills on stock options.

In Tuesday’s filing, Musk’s lawyers said it was time to rein in the SEC.

“Under the shadow of the consent decree, the SEC has increasingly surveilled, policed, and attempted to curb Mr. Musk’s protected speech that does not touch upon the federal securities laws,” the lawyers wrote. “Any objective served by the pre-approval provision has been served.”

Musk is separately trying to abandon his April agreement to buy Twitter for $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3,37,465 crore), saying the company misled him by downplaying the number of fake accounts.

Twitter has sued Musk to force him to complete the merger at the agreed-upon price, which is 23 percent higher than where its shares closed on Tuesday. An October 17 nonjury trial is scheduled in Delaware Chancery Court.

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The case is Musk v SEC, 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-1291.


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Meta Disrupts Chinese Propaganda Operation Across Facebook, Instagram Ahead of US Midterm Elections

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Meta Platforms said on Tuesday it disrupted the first known China-based influence operation focused on targeting users in the United States with political content ahead of the midterm elections in November.

The network maintained fake accounts across Meta’s social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, as well as competitor service Twitter, but was small and did not attract much of a following, Meta said in a report summarising its findings.

Still, the report noted, the discovery was significant because it suggested a shift toward more direct interference in US domestic politics compared with previous known Chinese propaganda efforts.

“The Chinese operations we’ve taken down before talked primarily about America to the world, primarily in South Asia, not to Americans about themselves,” Meta global threat intelligence lead Ben Nimmo told a press briefing.

“Essentially the message was ‘America bad, China good,’” he said of those operations, while the new operation pushed messages aimed at Americans on both sides of divisive issues like abortion and gun rights.

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Another Meta executive at the briefing said the company did not have enough evidence to say who in China was behind the activity.

Asked about Meta’s findings at a news conference, US Attorney General Merrick Garland said his office was “very concerned” about intelligence reports of election interference by foreign governments “starting back some time ago and continuing all the way into the present.”

A Twitter spokesperson said the company was aware of the information in Meta’s report and also took down the accounts.

According to Meta’s report, the Chinese fake accounts posed as liberal and conservative Americans in different states. They posted political memes and lurked in the comments of public figures’ posts since November 2021.

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A sample screenshot showed one account commenting on a Facebook post by Republican Senator Marco Rubio, asking him to stop gun violence and using the hashtag #RubioChildrenKiller.

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The same network also set up fake accounts that posed as people in the Czech Republic criticizing the Czech government over its approach to China, according to the report.

Meta also said it had intercepted the largest and most complex Russian-based operation since the war in Ukraine began, describing it as a sprawling network of more than 60 websites impersonating legitimate news organisations, along with about 4,000 social media accounts and petitions on sites like US-based campaign group Avaaz.

That operation primarily targeted users in Germany, as well as France, Italy, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, and spent more than $100,000 (roughly Rs. 81.8 lakh) on advertisements promoting pro-Russian messages.

On a few occasions, Russian embassies in Europe and Asia amplified the content.

The Russian embassy in Washington said Meta’s move follows “the instructions of the US authorities” and is a violation of freedom of speech.

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“This suggests that American tech giants, who own the most popular Internet resources, have become servants of the US administration’s policy of suppressing dissent,” the embassy said on its Telegram channel.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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