VIEWPOINT: Why Musk will win the Twitter case
Elon Musk will win his case against Twitter in Delaware’s Court of Chancery, not by a stroke of legal genius or the recent whistleblower’s claims against the social media company. Rather, Musk’s victory will be a painful, self-inflicted end Twitter has projected on itself due to the company’s past history of accepting and cancelling rogue actors’ and genuine U.S. government handles. These actions demonstrate Twitter’s sloppiness, directionless, and opportunistic dereliction of its duties.
Without a doubt, Musk and Twitter ignite strong feelings within political spectrums and in the arena of freedom of speech debates. On a business spectrum, most mergers and acquisitions usually allow for a due diligence period regarding revenue and current customer base.
Twitter’s past decisions and performance have given Musk’s legal team a cash cow; most of the Musk defense Twitter will encounter is already on the internet. The latest whistleblower’s claims only adds substance to Musk’s decision not to proceed in the acquisition of the company, but is miniscule compared to Twitter’s checkered history.
In 2012, Twitter under then-CEO Jack Dorsey’s leadership allowed terrorist groups Al-Shabaab and Hezbollah, along with associated terrorist organizations, to join Twitter. This was initially reported in a January 2012 Atlantic magazine article, “The Most Infamous Terrorist on Twitter.” Both Al-Shabaab and Taliban Twitter accounts had over 8,000 followers, with Hamas at approximately 2,000, according to the report. These events were on the heels of the 2011 Federal Trade Commission consent agreement that concluded Twitter “had failed to take reasonable steps” to protect its systems after hackers had seized control of handle user accounts. This consent agreement will be a significant argument by Musk to terminate his contract to purchase Twitter.
Fast forward to a 2014 Mother Jones magazine article, “The State Department is Actively Trolling Twitter.” U.S. State Department used an account, @Turnagainturnaway, to dissuade recruitment to terrorist groups. The State Department had almost 200 separate handles to combat and cultivate “hearts and minds campaigns” to combat terrorist recruitment worldwide. According to the State Department’s Radio-free Europe, Russia took no time to troll the State Department’s Twitter accounts in support of Ukraine in 2014.
However, by May 2016, the Wall Street Journal reported that Twitter had decided to cut all ties with U.S. intelligence communities using Twitter-owned analytics utilizing social media and news. Twitter, since 2014, has been a U.S. government contractor, similar to Musk and his companies. By 2016, Twitter had suspended 360,000 handles and accounts, according to Reuters news.
Brand legitimacy and protecting your customer base is tantamount to credibility. Both Musk and Twitter have high-level U.S. government contacts and clearances. Both have been cooperative with U.S. intelligence and defense, except for Twitter turning its back on assisting U.S. national security interests.
When the music meets the math in the Chancery Court of Delaware, however, Musk will triumph if this case goes to trial. Like him or not, Musk’s concern over Twitter’s legitimate customer and handle base and terminating his agreement to acquire the company is absolutely valid.
Mattie Moore holds a Master of Science in cybersecurity and engineering technology. She is a consultant and frequent commentator on national security, geopolitical, and cyber issues.