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Elon Musk’s mysterious ways on display in Tesla tweet trial

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Elon Musk's mysterious ways on display in Tesla tweet trial

Elon Musk’s enigmatic personality and unconventional tactics are emerging as key exhibits in a trial revolving around one of his most polarizing pursuits — tweeting.

The trial, centered on a pair of tweets announcing Musk had obtained the money to take Tesla private in 2018, reeled the 51-year-old billionaire into a federal courtroom in San Francisco for three days of testimony that opened a peephole into his often inscrutable mind.

Musk, who now owns the Twitter service that he deploys as his megaphone, was often a study in contrasts during his roughly eight hours on the stand. The CEO of the electric carmaker is facing a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of Tesla shareholders after Musk tweeted about a company buyout that didn’t happen.

Through both his testimony and the evidence submitted around it, Musk came across as impetuous, brash, combative and contemptuous of anyone who questioned his motives as a game-changing entrepreneur who has inspired comparisons to Apple’s late co-founder, Steve Jobs.

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At other times, Musk sounded like the savvy visionary that his supporters hail him to be — an intrepid rebel who by his own estimates has raised more than $100 billion from investors. They have been richly rewarded by his leadership of pioneering companies that include PayPal in digital payments, Tesla in electric vehicles and SpaceX in rocket ships.

“It is relatively easy for me to get investment support because my track record is extremely good,” Musk wryly observed.

But his confidence in his ability to get the money he wants to pursue his plans is one reason he found himself in court. The three-week trial is set to resume Tuesday and head for jury deliberations by Friday.

Here’s what to know so far:

PLANTING THE SEEDS

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Evidence and testimony have shown Musk had started to mull taking Tesla private in 2017 so he wouldn’t have to hassle with the headaches and distractions that accompany running a publicly traded company.

After a July 31, 2018, meeting with a top representative from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, Musk sent a letter to Tesla’s board outlining why he wanted to take the automaker private at a price of $420 per share — about 20% above its stock price at the time.

Musk was serious enough that he had already discussed the pros and cons with Michael Dell, who had gone through the public-to-private transition in 2013 when he led a $25 billion buyout of the personal computer company bearing his name, according to trial evidence.

THE TROUBLESOME TWEETS

The crux of the case hinges on an Aug. 7, 2018, tweet in which Musk declared “funding secured” to take Tesla private. Musk abruptly posted the tweet minutes before boarding his private jet after being alerted that the Financial Times was about to publish a story that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund had spent about $2 billion buying a 5% stake in Tesla to diversify its interests beyond oil, according to his testimony.

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Amid widespread confusion about whether Musk’s Twitter account had been hacked or he was joking, Musk followed up a few hours later with another tweet suggesting a deal was imminent.

Musk defended the initial tweet as a well-intentioned move to ensure all Tesla investors knew the automaker might be on its way to ending its then-eight-year run as a publicly held company.

“I had no ill motive,” Musk testified. “My intent was to do the right thing for all shareholders.”

Guhan Subramanian, a Harvard University business and law professor hired as an expert for shareholder lawyers, derided Musk’s method for announcing a potential buyout as an “extreme outlier” fraught with potential conflicts.

“The risk is that Mr. Musk timed his announcement of his (management buyout) proposal to serve his own interests rather then the interests of the company,” Subramanian testified.

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WHERE’S THE MONEY?

There’s another issue threatening to undermine Musk’s defense. He hadn’t locked up the financing for his proposed deal or even pinned down down how much would be needed to pull it off, based on testimony from Musk, other witnesses and other evidence.

That is one reason U.S. District Judge Edward Chen had decided last year that Musk’s 2018 tweets were false and has instructed the jury to view them that way.

It also prompted regulators to allege Musk misled investors with the tweets, resulting in a $40 million settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that also required Musk to step down as Tesla’s chairman.

Chen ruled that the 2018 settlement, in which Musk didn’t acknowledge wrongdoing and has since lamented making, can’t be mentioned to the jury.

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Musk testified that he believed he had secured an oral commitment to provide wherever money was needed for a Tesla buyout during a July 31, 2018, face-to-face meeting with Yasir al-Rumayyan, governor of Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund.

That was reinforced in testimony from Tesla’s former chief financial officer, Deepak Ahuja, who was at the discussions and took al-Rumayyan on a half-hour tour of a Tesla factory.

But a text message al-Rumayyan sent to Musk after the “funding secured” tweets made it appear that the discussions about the Saudi fund financing a private buyout were preliminary.

“I would like to listen to your plan Elon and what are the financial calculations to take it,” al-Rumayyan wrote to Musk, according to a copy submitted as evidence in the trial.

Musk framed al-Rumayyan’s text as an attempt to backpedal from his previous commitment. He also insisted the Saudi fund had given an “unequivocal commitment” to financing the buyout.

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MONEY MANEUVERING

After his 2018 tweets, Musk tried to get the money needed for the Tesla buyout with the help of Egon Durban, co-CEO of the private equity firm Silver Lake, which helped finance the Dell buyout in 2013. Musk also enlisted Dan Dees, a top executive with Goldman Sachs, an investment banking firm that had worked closely with Tesla.

In testimony, both Durban and Dees discussed efforts to raise money for a Tesla buyout for a wide range of potential investors that included two Chinese companies, Alibaba and Tencent, as well as Google in documents initially code-named “Project Turbo,” then “Project Titanium.”

The buyout would have required anywhere from $20 billion to $70 billion, according to the documents — funding that never came close to getting raised, Durban and Dees both testified, largely because Musk scrapped the proposal to take Tesla private on Aug. 24, 2018, after consulting with shareholders.

Tesla’s shares are now worth eight times what they were then, after adjusting for two stock splits.

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Musk still contends he could have gotten the money had he wanted and, even if there was a shortfall, he could have covered any gap by selling some of his stock in privately held SpaceX. That is a strategy Musk used in his $44 billion purchase of Twitter, except he sold about $23 billion of his stock in Tesla.

Durban and Dees both testified that they had no doubt the money for a buyout could have been raised — echoed by former Tesla director Antonio Gracias.

“He is the Michael Jordan of fundraising,” Gracias testified.

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WhatsApp unveils new text formatting feature for enhanced communication

WhatsApp unveils new text formatting feature for enhanced communication

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WhatsApp unveils new text formatting feature for enhanced communication

WhatsApp has unveiled a groundbreaking feature that revolutionizes text messaging by allowing users to customize their messages like never before.

Prior to this update, users were limited to basic text modifications such as bold and italic; however, the new feature introduces a plethora of formatting options, including numbers, bullets, block quotes, and text highlighting.

The process is simple and intuitive, requiring users to incorporate specific symbols to achieve their desired text format. For monospacing text, users can enclose their message with three backticks on both sides. Adding a quote is as easy as placing an angle bracket and a space before the text.

To strike through a message, users need to flank their text with tilde symbols, while bolding requires asterisks on both sides. One of the standout additions is the ability to create bulleted lists effortlessly. Users can precede each word or sentence with an asterisk or hyphen and a space to generate a neatly organized list.

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Moreover, numbering and spacing at the beginning of text with “1.” facilitates the creation of itemized lists, enhancing the overall clarity and structure of messages.

Inline code can now be seamlessly integrated into messages by enclosing the text with backtick symbols at the start and end. This provides users with a practical way to share code snippets or emphasize specific phrases within their conversations.

The accompanying image showcases the versatility of this new feature, illustrating the various formatting options available to users. WhatsApp users across iOS, Android, and web devices can now leverage this advanced text formatting feature to elevate their communication experience.

The update reflects WhatsApp’s commitment to continually enhance user experience and foster more expressive and organized conversations. Whether you’re conveying information, emphasizing key points, or sharing code snippets, the new formatting options provide a dynamic and engaging communication platform for users worldwide. 

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Meta to set up team to counter disinformation, AI abuse in EU elections

Meta to set up team to counter disinformation, AI abuse in EU elections

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Meta to set up team to counter disinformation, AI abuse in EU elections

 Facebook owner Meta will set up a team to tackle disinformation and the abuse of generative artificial intelligence in the run-up to European Parliament elections in June amid concerns about election interference and misleading AI-generated content.

The rapid growth of generative AI, which can create text, images and video in seconds in response to prompts, has triggered fears that the new technology could be used to disrupt major elections, across the world this year. 

European Parliament elections will take place June 6-9. Its 720 lawmakers, together with EU governments, pass new EU policies and laws.

“As the election approaches, we’ll activate an Elections Operations Center to identify potential threats and put mitigations in place in real time,” Marco Pancini, Meta’s head of EU affairs, said in a blogpost.

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He said experts from the company’s intelligence, data science, engineering, research, operations, content policy and legal teams will focus on combating misinformation, tackling influence operations and counter the risks related to the abuse of generative AI.

Meta, which currently works with 26 independent fact-checking organisations across the European Union covering 22 languages, will add three new partners in Bulgaria, France, and Slovakia, Pancini said.

Meta, Microsoft, OpenAI and 17 other tech companies earlier this month agreed to work together to prevent deceptive artificial-intelligence content from interfering with elections across the globe this year.

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‘X’ faces prolonged suspension across Pakistan

‘X’ faces prolonged suspension across Pakistan

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'X' faces prolonged suspension across Pakistan

The popular microblogging site ‘X,’ formerly known as Twitter, has been inaccessible across Pakistan for over a week. 

Despite a brief interval when the site was accessible, users are now reporting a persistent outage, even when using Virtual Private Network (VPN) services.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), the government agency responsible for overseeing telecommunications, hasn’t released any official statement regarding the suspension of the service.

This lack of transparency has only intensified the frustration among users who heavily rely on ‘X’ for information and news updates. Users who initially turned to VPNs as a workaround have also hit a roadblock, as the microblogging site remains inaccessible. 

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The situation has raised concerns about the government’s stance on digital freedom and freedom of speech. The outage has not gone unnoticed by the public, with many expressing their discontent on various platforms. 

Criticism has been directed towards the government and the IT minister for what is perceived as an attack on freedom of speech and a hindrance to the revenue generated by the country’s thriving IT professionals.

Earlier, the Sindh High Court issued a directive to restore access to ‘X’ across Pakistan, recognising the site’s significance for information dissemination. However, despite court’s order, there has been no implementation, leaving users and advocates of digital freedom in a state of dismay.

The suspension of ‘X’ has broader implications, impacting not only the general public but also businesses and professionals who rely on the platform for communication, networking, and staying informed about the latest developments. The longer the outage persists, the more severe the consequences may be for the nation’s digital landscape.

As the public awaits an official statement from the PTA and the government, concerns about the potential ramifications of such a prolonged suspension continue to grow.

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