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Twitter has to give Elon Musk only one bot checker's data, judge rules

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Logo of Twitter (REUTERS)

Elon Musk this month accused Twitter 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, and 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.

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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 $44 billion purchase of the company. 

But a judge in Delaware Chancery Court, where the social media company sued Musk to make him complete the deal, also said Twitter doesn’t have to produce documents for most of the employees Musk says are key witnesses on the bots issue.

Musk this month accused Twitter 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, and 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, 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 chief executive officer Parag Agrawal. It was Beykpour’s 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.

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 Musk 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.

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