Elon Musk is expected to seize on the Twitter whistleblower’s accusations in an attempt to buy more time in his legal battle with the social media company, sources closely following the situation told The Post.
Musk will either revise his current countersuit against Twitter or open up a second front with a new lawsuit after Twitter’s former security chief Peiter “Mudge” Zatko alleged the company hid serious security problems, the sources said.
In either scenario, Musk will ask for extra time to conduct discovery on the whistleblower’s claims and push back the five-day trial slated to begin Oct. 17 as the billionaire seeks to get out of the $44 billion deal, according to sources.
News of Musk’s apparent intentions comes as the judge overseeing the case in Delaware Chancery Court ruled Thursday that Twitter must hand over some of the data his legal team had sought — but rejected the mogul’s bid for other information as “broadly absurd.”
Zatko’s whistleblower complaint — filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in July and made public Tuesday — accused Twitter of failing to upgrade its server infrastructure, thus leaving it vulnerable to severe breaches.
The famed hacker hired by ex-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent the Twitter board his security concerns in a report in February, but the board didn’t share the information with Musk when he was negotiating to buy the company, sources said.
Musk has focused his countersuit against Twitter on allegations that Twitter has knowingly been reporting a false number of spam accounts in its financial reports.
But he cannot argue about potential fraud as it relates to Twitter’s user security without filing a new action, sources said.
Zatko — a software engineer who became a star in the hacker community after leading a 1990s-era group called “Cult of the Dead Cow” — has been ordered to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss his complaint on Sept. 13.
He was named head of security by Twitter two years ago after the company was victimized by embarrassing glitches, including the commandeering by hackers of high-profile accounts belonging to the likes of Barack Obama, Elon Musk, Joe Biden, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West and Mike Bloomberg.
Zatko’s complaint took center stage at a discovery hearing on Wednesday, with Musk’s team demanding Twitter hand over a trove of information, including geolocation data.
Musk has claimed the company defrauded him by misrepresenting the number of real users in its financial disclosures that he relied on to make his takeover offer and he wanted the data to confirm Twitter’s spam estimates.
But Thursday, Judge Katheleen McCormack limited the scope of data to be turned over to 9,000 accounts sampled in the fourth quarter as part of its process to estimate the number of spam accounts.
Twitter had said that data did not exist and it would be burdensome to collect it. McCormick gave the company two weeks to produce 9,000 accounts sampled in the fourth quarter as part of its process to estimate the number of spam accounts.
However, the judge said many of Musk’s other data demands were “absurdly broad,” amounting to trillions of data points that “no one in their right mind has ever tried to undertake such an effort.”
McCormick said Musk has had data and documents needed to pursue his case, much of which was provided before he said on July 8 he was terminating the deal in part because Twitter was withholding information.
“My overall impression is that plaintiff has agreed to produce a tremendous amount of information to defendants, and that the information plaintiff has agreed to produce is sufficiently broad to satisfy most of plaintiff’s obligations,” wrote McCormick, who had denied Musk’s previous bid to delay the trial until January.
Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, applauded getting the additional data.
“We look forward to reviewing the data Twitter has been hiding for many months,” Spiro said in a written statement.
Twitter’s shares closed Thursday at $41.05.
The company sued Musk on July 12 to enforce a merger agreement in which it would sell him the company for $44 billion, $54.20 a share.