Attorneys for Twitter, eager to force billionaire Elon Musk to avoid escaping his deal to buy Twitter, cited a text he wrote in early May referencing “World War III,” then claimed, “This is why Mr. Musk didn’t want to buy Twitter. This stuff about the bots, mDAU [monetizable daily active users] and Zatko is all pretext.”
Musk had offered $44 billion to buy Twitter, then later said he was backing out of the deal in part because Twitter had underestimated the number of fake accounts on its platform. Whistleblower Pieter Zatko, who had served as Twitter’s head of security, had accused company leadership of misleading board members and government officials about the company’s potential vulnerabilities that could engender hacking, foreign manipulation, and spying.
Twitter’s attorneys cited a text Musk wrote on May 8 to Morgan Stanley banker Michael Grimes saying, “Let’s slow down just a few days. Putin speech tomorrow is extremely important. It won’t make sense to buy Twitter if we’re heading into World War III,” New York Magazine reported.
Although Twitter’s attorneys insinuate that Musk may have been worried in May about Russian President Vladimir Putin using nuclear weapons, Putin had first implied that possibility as early as February, saying that an attempt by other countries to interfere the war in Ukraine would “lead you to such consequences that you have never encountered in your history.”
In April, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned of a possible nuclear war, “The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”
It was only two days after Musk’s text that the U.S. director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, warned the Senate armed services committee that Putin might resort to using his country’s nuclear weapons to stop Western allies from helping Ukraine.
“We do think that [Putin’s perception of an existential threat] could be the case in the event that he perceives that he is losing the war in Ukraine, and that NATO in effect is either intervening or about to intervene in that context, which would obviously contribute to a perception that he is about to lose the war in Ukraine,” Haines stated, as The Guardian reported.
“There are a lot of things that he would do in the context of escalation before he would get to nuclear weapons, and also that he would be likely to engage in some signaling beyond what he’s done thus far before doing so,” Haines continued.
When Zatko issued his warning vis-à-vis Twitter, he asserted, “All engineers had access. There was no logging of who went into the environment or what they did. Nobody knew where data lived or whether it was critical, and all engineers had some form of critical access to the production environment.”
New York Magazine pointed out that the day after Musk’s text, “Putin gave a sword-rattling Victory Day speech commemorating the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany, but the war in Ukraine had already been going on for more than a month and he didn’t escalate it further.”