World

Twitter has to give Musk only one bot checker’s data: Its ex-product head

TWITTER Inc was ordered to hand over files from its former consumer product head to Elon Musk on spam and bot accounts the billionaire has cited in seeking to abandon his US$44 billion purchase of the social media company.

But Twitter was spared from producing documents for most of the employees Musk says are key witnesses on the bots issue.

Musk, whom Twitter sued to make him complete the deal, accused the company this month of hiding the names of workers specifically responsible for evaluating how much of the platform’s customer base is made up of spam and robot accounts. He asked the judge to force Twitter to identify them. So far Twitter has given up the names of “records custodians,” who aren’t as familiar with the data in question.

On Monday, Delaware Chancery Court Judge Kathaleen St J McCormick mostly denied Musk’s request in a one-page ruling, ordering that Twitter needn’t “collect, review, or produce documents” from any of the other 21 additional custodians Musk asked for.

The exception is Kayvon Beykpour, former head of consumer product, who was fired in May.

Beykpour was the top product executive at Twitter for years before he was unexpectedly dismissed by new CEO Parag Agrawal. It was his product team that was most directly responsible for expanding Twitter’s user base — and it is the quality of that base Musk has questioned in seeking to walk away from the deal.

Beykpour joined Twitter in 2015 when the company acquired his live video app, Periscope, and quickly climbed the ranks under former CEO Jack Dorsey. He was pushing Twitter into new product areas, like live audio spaces and newsletters, before he was ousted.

The departures of Beykpour and Bruce Falck, formerly in charge of revenue product, reflected Twitter’s state of limbo while it awaited a new owner, a state now intensified by the litigation. Meanwhile, a hiring freeze and other cost-cutting efforts have left some employees unsure of whether the projects or teams they are working on will be prioritised under new leadership.

Lawyers for Twitter and Musk have issued a flurry of subpoenas to banks, investors and attorneys involved in the deal, as the two sides prepare for an Oct 17 trial in Wilmington.

Twitter claims that Musk, the world’s richest person and the CEO of Tesla Inc, is using the concerns about spam and bot accounts as an excuse to get out of the transaction. Musk argues the company has failed to show that spam bots account for fewer than 5% of its active users, as it has said in regulatory filings.

The case is Twitter vs Musk, 22-0613, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington). – BLOOMBERG

Dayang Norazhar

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