Elon Musk will push for more access to internal Twitter data at a court hearing this week after it was revealed that a former top executive has accused the company of “lying about bots” to the billionaire Tesla boss, a source close to the situation told The Post.
The in-person hearing in Musk’s ongoing legal battle to scrap his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Wednesday at the Delaware Court of Chancery, the source said.
Musk is likely hoping that his case will be bolstered by a whistleblower complaint filed by ex-security chief Peiter Zatko, who filed a whistleblower complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission in July accusing Twitter of “Lying about Bots to Elon Musk.”
Zatko’s complaint claims that Twitter’s leadership is financially incentivized to juice user numbers instead of cracking down on bots. Musk has repeatedly accused Twitter of covering up a bot problem as part of his effort to get out of his $44 billion takeover deal.
In Zatko’s complaint, which was first reported by CNN and the Washington Post on Tuesday, the former executive claims that Twitter’s C-Suite could be paid out bonuses worth up to $10 million if they boosted the number of user counts, incentivizing them to ignore the site’s widespread issue with spam accounts.
“Twitter executives have little or no personal incentive to accurately ‘detect’ or measure the prevalence of spam bots,” read the complaint. “Senior management had no appetite to properly measure the prevalence of bot accounts… they were concerned that if accurate measurements ever became public, it would harm the image and valuation of the company.”
While Zatko’s complaint accuses Twitter of everything from misleading the Federal Trade Commission to letting an Indian government agent “access to vast amounts of Twitter sensitive data,” a source following the case said Musk’s legal team is expected to focus on the bot claims, which line up with accusations the Tesla CEO has been making for months.
Zatko also claimed that an unnamed senior Twitter executive tried to shut down a key internal tool called “read-only phone only” that was used for fighting bots and spam accounts.
The Washington Post reported that the unnamed senior executive is Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter’s former head of consumer product who was fired by CEO Parag Agrawal earlier this year.
Musk’s legal team has already been granted permission from the Delaware Court of Chancery to obtain records from Beykpour.
Zatko claims that Beykpour sought to shut down the feature after “receiving a small number of unsolicited DMS (text messages),” but other sources told the newspaper that Beykpour believed the feature had much bigger issues.
Twitter shares were trading down 3.2% at $41.65 on Tuesday. The company wants to force Musk to go through with his deal to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share.
Zatko was fired from Twitter in January 2022 — months before Musk initially tried to buy Twitter — due to what the site claimed was “ineffective leadership and poor performance” in a statement to The Post.
“What we’ve seen so far is a false narrative about Twitter and our privacy and data security practices that is riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies and lacks important context,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “Mr. Zatko’s allegations and opportunistic timing appear designed to capture attention and inflict harm on Twitter, its customers and its shareholders. Security and privacy have long been company-wide priorities at Twitter and will continue to be.”
Alex Spiro, an attorney for Musk, told The Post: “We have already issued a subpoena for Mr. Zatko, and we found his exit and that of other key employees curious in light of what we have been finding.”