Elon Musk wanted Twitter Inc. to include the word “Trump” in a search of corporate communications and documents to better understand the company’s problem with fake accounts, unsealed documents show.
“Trump is relevant for the reasons we explained, namely that the name is often associated with spam, false accounts, and bots,” Musk attorney Silpa Maruri said in a July 29 email exchange that’s part of a trove of documents made public Thursday in a lawsuit over the billionaire’s attempt to cancel his $44 billion acquisition offer.
Musk backed out of the deal in part because he claimed Twitter wasn’t forthcoming about the number of bot accounts at the social-media company, which sued Musk to force him to complete the deal.
Former President Donald Trump, once one of Twitter’s most popular users, was kicked off the platform after the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and Musk has said Trump should “sail into the sunset” rather than run for election again. Twitter and other platforms have been widely used by bots to spread misinformation, including about Trump and the 2020 election he lost to President Joe Biden.
Twitter lawyer Bradley Wilson responded to the search-term dispute saying the company was “unpersuaded” by the need to look for “Trump.” The former president’s name is among “many irrelevant subjects” that would result in too many search results, he said.
Lawyers for the parties also clashed over the search terms “Bangalore” and “New Delhi,” according to the emails. Musk’s lawyers said they wanted the terms added because they “recently learned Twitter filed a lawsuit against the government in Bangalore challenging orders blocking certain user accounts.”
Twitter failed to disclose the investigations in India and by doing so, violated a provision of the merger agreement, Musk’s lawyer claimed.
“That Twitter filed suit in response to blocking orders already issued strongly suggests an investigation(s) had been underway during the negotiation period and before the time the Merger Agreement was executed,” according to the email.
A preliminary search with the terms and many others sought by Musk turned up nearly 250,000 documents from the list of individuals whose emails and records were searched, Twitter said, arguing the terms should be narrowed.