Elon Musk Cited Fear of a Potential World War 3 as a Reason to Get Out of Twitter Deal

Two weeks after announcing his $44-billion bid for Twitter, Elon Musk told one of his Morgan Stanley bankers that he might withdraw from the merger agreement due to the possibility of World War 3.
elon musk

Two weeks after he committed to buying Twitter for $44 billion, Tesla and SpaceX CEO thought of exiting the merger agreement due to the possibility of World War III.

Elon Musk wasn’t predicting doomsday because North Korea is conducting nuclear weapons tests. He is much more concerned about artificial intelligence than about the world war.

In one of several tweets made early Monday, Elon Musk stated that North Korea “should be low on our list of concerns for civilizational existential peril.”

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In another tweet, Musk used the Internet abbreviation for “in my opinion (IMO)” to say that competition for AI domination at the national level would probably be the reason for WW3.”

The prediction was in response to a recent remark by Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Artificial intelligence is the future of humanity and not just Russia. Whoever leads in this area will lead the world,” said Putin.

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According to a top tech industry executive, China, the United States, and India are currently the three nations leading the AI race.

Musk has frequently warned about the dangers of AI and called for additional regulations to protect the public. Musk stated in an interview conducted around the time of Neuralink Launch: “I was trying to sound a warning on the AI front for quite a long, but it had no impact.”

So I thought, “oh, alright, okay, then let’s try to help it evolve nicely,” he adds.

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Twitter and Elon Musk confrontation

Months after Russia invaded Ukraine, Elon Musk sought to delay the $44 billion purchase of Twitter, claiming in private messages to Morgan Stanley, a banker, that it was pointless to do so “if we’re headed to World War III.”

elon musk twitter 1024x538 1
Elon Musk by Ministério Das Comunicações under CC BY 2.0

The private messages surfaced online after regular hearings – as part of the dispute between Twitter and Elon Musk.

It is important to note that new accounts regularly emerge in the media about the causes of Elon Musk’s uncertainty before his abrupt change of heart regarding Twitter. Hence, it was probably a combination of motives, but it was difficult to identify the primary one.

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Musk sent the text messages to Morgan Stanley on May 8, which is financing part of Elon Musk’s deal. The billionaire quoted the upcoming speech of Russian President Putin in these texts.

In a statement he released on May 9, the dictator referred to the Ukraine invasion as ‘the only correct one.’ Musk probably feared that after the speech, the word would get out that more nations had joined the conflict due to Russia’s increased military pressure.

“Let’s take it easy for a few days. Putin’s speech tomorrow is quite important. If World War III is on the horizon, there is a point buying Twitter,” Elon Musk wrote to Michael Grimes.

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Twitter lawsuit

Intriguingly, Twitter representatives added these messages to the case. By showing these messages, Twitter’s attorneys hoped to demonstrate that Musk’s attention was not on the number of fake accounts on the social network but on the financial aspect.

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco TK2
Twitter headquarters in San Francisco by Tobias Kleinlercher under CC BY-SA 3.0

Twitter called the Musk text a “money quotation.” But Musk lawyer Alex Spiro said “the characterization of the texts in court demonstrates ‘complete nonsense as the full-text chain reveals,” Business Insider wrote.

The Wall Street Journal wrote that Spiro also “responded by stating that any businessman would be apprehensive about the implications of a future war on the stock market.”

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Twitter’s lawsuit against Tesla CEO argued that Musk had no right to quit the deal. The lawyers emphasized that Musk tried to pull out because “the value of Musk’s stake in Tesla, the basis of his wealth, has decreased by over $100 billion from the November 2021 peak.” Musk agreed to seller-friendly terms with “no financing contingency and diligence condition,” the lawsuit said.

Judge rules that Musk can’t delay the trial

The private message Musk sent to Grimes was read during a pre-trial hearing in the Delaware Court of Chancery. It may provide a sneak peek of arguments made in the trial starting October 17.

More pressingly, Musk’s requests to (1) delay the trial by a month and (2) modify his countersuit to incorporate whistleblower claims made by Twitter’s former security chief were contested by Twitter and Musk’s attorneys.

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Elon Musk had stated that a delay of at least four weeks would not harm Twitter because the debt financing has an outside date of April 25, 2023. Similarly, The “termination date of October 24, 2022” of the merger agreement “will automatically stay if litigation is commenced.”

Musk’s request for a postponement was denied. However, Judge Kathaleen McCormick allowed him to amend the countersuit. She cited her earlier ruling rejecting Musk’s application for a delay until mid-November, which Musk had previously lost in a bid to push back the trial until February 2023.

According to Judge McCormick, Twitter’s assurance that it can handle reasonable requests for more discovery while maintaining the October 17 trial date made her keep the case on schedule.

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Musk can amend the countersuit.

Elon Musk at a Press Conference
Elon Musk at a Press Conference by Daniel Oberhaus under CC BY-SA 4.0

McCormick ruled that Musk can include claims made in a whistleblower complaint filed by former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko in his countersuit against Twitter.

Twitter had argued that allowing Musk to amend his countersuit “would be detrimental because it would lengthen the litigation schedule. Twitter’s arguments to this effect are significantly stronger than Twitter’s futility arguments,” McCormick continued. 

“However, such prejudice can be lessened by keeping the current case schedule and capping extra discovery to the new allegations.”

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In light of this, McCormick stated that Musk is “only allowed an incremental discovery related to the new charges,” which “may be made through targeted document discovery and minimal additional experts and fact witnesses.” 

On the other hand, Musk’s side alleged that Twitter has been too slow in providing discovery information.

Musk and Twitter debate whistleblower claims

Zatko’s claims sent to members of Congress and many government agencies cited severe security issues at Twitter; and claimed that the company is guilty of “presenting false claims about bots to Musk.” Although Twitter publicly said that less than 5% of its monetizable daily active users (mDAU) are spam or false, Zatko’s complaint doesn’t appear to refute that claim.

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Zatko’s attempt to back up Musk’s assertion that Twitter’s estimate of spam is inaccurate depends on counting spam bots excluded in the mDAU figure.

As reported in a Wall Street Journal article, Twitter’s lawyer described “Zatko as a disgruntled former employee with an axe to grind” and “said his work at the company was irrelevant to the claim undercounting of spam and bot accounts that Musk referenced in his counterclaims.”

Is Twitter keeping information about Zatko?

Spiro had “criticized Twitter for withholding information about Zatko’s claims of ‘egregious inadequacies’ in digital security and privacy, among other alleged mismanagement. He emphasized that ‘the whistleblower’s claim may bolster Musk’s allegations that Twitter committed fraud by misrepresenting the state of its business and key metrics regarding the platform use,'” the WSJ wrote. Justice is pleading for a change in this situation, Spiro added.

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Featured image credit: Twitter advert by Howard Lake under CC BY-SA 2.0 and Elon Musk by Steve Jurvetson under CC BY 2.0