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Musk subpoenas Twitter whistleblower in buyout battle

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Billionaire Elon Musk has tweeted that he was buying English football club Manchester United, without providing any details as to whether he was serious or not

Billionaire Elon Musk. — © AFP/File Attila KISBENEDEK

Elon Musk has formally subpoenaed a Twitter whistleblower to share information about spam accounts at the social network, as the billionaire fights in court to back out of a massive buyout deal.

Musk has tried to pull out of the $44 billion agreement by saying Twitter misled him on the number of false accounts, or bots, prompting strong denials and a lawsuit from the social media firm.

The Tesla boss hopes that allegations made by the former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko, about major security gaps and problematic practices at the firm, will bolster his case.

According to court documents made public on Monday, Musk’s attorneys served Zatko with a subpoena Saturday demanding he share any documents or messages regarding the impact of spam and false accounts on Twitter’s activity, dating back to January 2019.

Zatko was also ordered to answer questions on the record for Musk lawyers on September 9.

Zatko’s attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Musk’s attempt to back out of buying Twitter has struggled for momentum in court.

Twitter won some early battles in the case, including a fast-track trial date, and its stock had risen as analysts predicted the platform would prevail over the mercurial Musk.

But a US judge last week told Twitter to surrender more data to Musk on the key issue of fake accounts, and the billionaire hopes Zatko’s whistleblower complaint could further turn the tide in its favor.

While Twitter has pointed out that Musk opted not to perform due diligence typically seen in merger deals, the billionaire’s attorney Alex Spiro told the Delaware judge he had trusted the firm’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The market watchdog was one of the recipients of Zatko’s complaint, which accuses Twitter of issuing untrue statements on account numbers because “if accurate measurements ever became public, it would harm the image and valuation of the company.”

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Twitter Tests New Tweet View Count Display to Better Highlight Content Reach

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Elon Musk Launches Hostile Takeover Bid for Twitter

Not entirely sure about this.

Today, Twitter has launched a public test of a new ‘Views’ count on some users’ tweets, which displays the total number of times that each of your tweets was seen in the app.

As you can see in this example, posted by @chimponsey, in the expanded tweet activity display, some users are now also seeing a ‘Views’ listing, alongside ‘Retweets’ and ‘Likes’.

The count is also indicated by an eye icon in the main tweet stream.

Tweet view count

So, cool, right? Now, instead of thinking that people are seeing your tweets and not engaging with them, you’ll know for sure, which should do wonders for your self-esteem.

Technically, the feature doesn’t add anything new, in that you can already view your tweet impression count in the full tweet analytics display (accessible via the graph icon on your tweets).

Twitter impression data

‘Views’ and ‘Impressions’, of course, are not the exact same thing, but as confirmed by Twitter, this is the data that people seeing.

So why put it in the general info display, and confront people with that figure?

At a guess, I would assume that this is part of Twitter’s ongoing effort to demonstrate that it’s more popular and influential than its general usage numbers may suggest.

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Twitter, for example, currently has 238 million monetizable daily active users, which puts it well behind Facebook (1.9b), Snapchat (347m) – basically, every other big social app has more users than Twitter, which has struggled to grow its audience over time.

But according to Twitter, this doesn’t tell the whole story, as many people are consuming tweet content regularly, despite not logging into the app. At one stage, Twitter pegged its ‘logged out’ monthly user count at 500 million, more than double its actual usage figure.

Twitter logged out users chart

That’s a significant story for Twitter to tell, because it points to the broader influence of the app, which could make it a more valuable consideration for brands, thought leaders, creators, etc.

Maybe, by making tweet view counts more present, that will help to reiterate this – because maybe, even though your tweet only got 10 likes, 10,000 people actually saw it.

I mean, that still doesn’t seem like hugely helpful data to have from a self- confidence perspective. But maybe, by knowing that you are actually reaching a lot more people than the Like and retweet figures suggest, that will help you revise and refine your tweet approach to improve engagement and response.

Some users have also reported seeing profile view counts in the app as well, which falls into the same category, with profile view data also already available in your tweet analytics.

Maybe, by making these insights more front of mind, that could have a positive effect – or the negatives of such are minimal enough to justify a full test either way.

I guess, what Twitter really needs to know now is whether having this data more immediately available then reduces people’s propensity to tweet. If you’re seeing that a lot more people are viewing your tweets than you’d thought, because your other engagement stats are low, that could make you feel like you’re not great at tweeting, and see you share less as a result.

If that happens, Twitter will no doubt switch it back – but it could also, as noted, give users more context as to the true reach potential of the app.

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Twitter has confirmed that the new view count display is currently being tested with a small group of users.



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