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Twitter says Musk making up excuses to breach deal

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Twitter says Musk making up excuses to breach deal

Elon Musk backing out of his deal to buy Twitter sets the stage for litigation over a $1 billion breakup fee as well as harm done to Twitter’s reputation and share price. – Copyright AFP Luis ROBAYO

Twitter on Thursday said the notion Elon Musk was “hoodwinked” into inking a $44 billion buyout deal defies reason and the facts.

In a filing, Twitter rejected counter claims made by Musk as he fights to walk away from the deal he inked in April to buy the San Francisco-based company.

“According to Musk, he – the billionaire founder of multiple companies, advised by Wall Street bankers and lawyers – was hoodwinked by Twitter into signing a $44 billion merger agreement,” Twitter said.

“That story is as implausible and contrary to fact as it sounds.”

Musk last week filed a countersuit along with a legal defense against Twitter’s claim that the billionaire is contractually bound to complete the takeover deal.

“The counterclaims are a made-for-litigation tale that is contradicted by the evidence and common sense,” Twitter argued in the filing.

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A five-day trial that will consider Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk has been scheduled for October 17.

The Tesla boss wooed Twitter’s board with a $54.20 per-share offer, but then in July announced he was ending their agreement because the firm had misled him regarding its tally of fake and spam accounts.

Twitter, whose stock price closed at $41.06 on Thursday, has stuck by its estimates that less than 5 percent of the activity on the platform is due to software “bots” rather than people.

Twitter told the court that Musk’s claim that the false account figure tops 10 percent is “untenable.”

The company also disputed Musk’s assertion that he has the right to walk away from the deal if Twitter’s bot count is found to be wrong since he didn’t ask anything about bots when he made the buyout offer.

“Musk forwent all due diligence – giving Twitter twenty-four hours to accept his take-it-or-leave-it offer before he would present it directly to Twitter’s stockholders,” the filing said.

The company accused Musk of contriving a story to escape a merger agreement that he no longer found attractive.

“Twitter has complied in every respect with the merger agreement,” the company said in the filing made to Chancery Court in the state of Delaware.

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“Musk’s counterclaims, based as they are on distortion, misrepresentation, and outright deception, change nothing.”

The social media platform has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.

“We are committed to closing the merger on the price and terms agreed upon with Mr. Musk,” Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal and board chairman Bret Taylor said in a letter to investors.

Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.

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Fresh fears after Facebook’s role in US abortion case

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Facebook's role in an abortion prosecution has raised fresh worries from advocates

Facebook’s role in an abortion prosecution has raised fresh worries from advocates – Copyright AFP/File Javed TANVEER

Glenn CHAPMAN

Facebook sparked outrage by complying with US police probing an abortion case, boosting simmering fears the platform will be a tool for clamping down on the procedure.

Criticism built after media reports revealed the social networking giant had turned over messages key to a mother being criminally charged with an abortion for her daughter.

Advocates had warned of exactly this kind of thing after America’s top court revoked the national right to abortion in late June, as big tech companies hold a trove of data on users locations and behavior.

Jessica Burgess, 41, was accused of helping her 17-year-old daughter to terminate a pregnancy in the midwestern US state of Nebraska.

She faces five charges — including one under a 2010 law which only allows abortion up to 20 weeks after fertilization.

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The daughter faces three charges, including one of concealing or abandoning a corpse.

Yet Facebook owner Meta defended itself Tuesday by noting the Nebraska court order “didn’t mention abortion at all”, and came before the Supreme Court’s highly divisive decision in June to overturn Roe v Wade, the case which conferred right to abortion in the United States.

“That sentence would seem to imply that *if* the search warrants mentioned abortion, there would be a different result. But of course that’s not true,” tweeted Logan Koepke, who researches on how technology impacts issues like criminal justice.

When queried about handing over the data, the Silicon Valley giant pointed AFP to its policy of complying with government requests when “the law requires us to do so.”

Nebraska’s restrictions were adopted years before Roe was overturned. Some 16 states have outright bans or limits in the early weeks of pregnancy in their jurisdictions.

– ‘Can’t release encrypted chats’ –

For tech world watchers, the Nebraska case surely won’t be the last.

“This is going to keep happening to companies that have vast amounts of data about people across the country and around the world,” said Alexandra Givens, CEO of the non-profit Center for Democracy & Technology.

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She went on to note that if companies receive a duly-issued legal request, under a valid law, there are strong incentives for them to want to comply with that request.

“The companies at a minimum have to make sure that they’re insisting on a full legal process, that warrants are specific and not a fishing expedition, searches are very narrowly construed and that they notify users so that users can try to push back,” Givens added.

Meta did not provide AFP the Nebraska court’s order. The police filing asked the judge to order the company not to tell Burgess’s daughter about the search warrant for her Facebook messages.

“I have reason to believe that notifying the subscriber or customer of the issuance of this search warrant may result in the destruction of or tampering with evidence,” police detective Ben McBride wrote.

He told the court he began investigating “concerns” in late April that Burgess’s daughter had given birth prematurely to a “stillborn child”, which they allegedly buried together.

Advocates noted that apart from not using Meta’s products, one sure way to keep users’ communications out of government hands would be for them to be automatically encrypted.

Meta-owned WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption, which means the company does not have access to the information, but that level of privacy protection is not the default setting on Facebook messenger.

“The company has never said it would not comply with a request from law enforcement in a situation related to abortions,” said Caitlin Seeley George, a campaign director at advocacy group Fight for the Future.

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“If users could rely on encrypted messaging, Meta wouldn’t even be in a position where they could share conversations,” she added.

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