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Twitter v. Elon brings us a meme-driven lawsuit for the books

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When Elon Musk announced his intention to terminate his $44 billion bid for Twitter, the social media company didn’t give up easily. Today, Twitter sued the SpaceX and Tesla CEO for refusing to uphold his contractual obligation to buy the platform. The company’s lawyers claim that Musk’s concerns about Twitter’s bot numbers are illegitimate.

When you agree to buy a slow-growing social media platform for more than it’s worth, there’s no take-backsies, unless the company seriously misrepresented itself. Even though Twitter handed over its “firehose” of internal data, Musk claimed the trove of information wasn’t sufficient. So he extended his ongoing public tantrum over Twitter bots, which culminated in his declaration that the deal was off.

As Twitter wrote in its lawsuit against the erratic billionaire, “Musk apparently believes that he — unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law — is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away.” In response to the lawsuit, Musk tweeted, “Oh the irony lol.”

Anyone with a Twitter account (even the bots!) has seen that Musk has been tweeting through it. Based on the memes he’s posted, it wasn’t shocking at all that he was getting cold feet about his $44 billion impulse buy — especially in light of the stock market downturn.

Twitter’s lawyers agreed: “In his press release announcing the deal on April 25, 2022, Musk raised a clarion call to ‘defeat the spam bots.’ But when the market declined and the fixed-price deal became less attractive, Musk shifted his narrative, suddenly demanding ‘verification’ that spam was not a serious problem on Twitter’s platform, and claiming a burning need to conduct ‘diligence’ he had expressly forsworn.”

How do you prove that an extremely online, mega-wealthy troll is trying to dupe you? You show the receipts. And the receipts in this case happen to be memes.

Twitter’s lawsuit against Musk has more pictures than your standard legal filing. Throughout the sixty-two page document, the plaintiff shares several images of Musk’s tweets (mostly memes about the acquisition) to prove that he has acted in bad faith. Of course, they included the poop emoji that Musk tweeted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal when he attempted to answer the mogul’s spam inquiries.

Elon Musk responds to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal with a poop emoji on Twitter

Elon Musk responds to Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal with a poop emoji on Twitter

As part of the agreement between Musk and Twitter, Musk is in violation if he disparages the platform. According to Twitter, that poop emoji does, indeed, count as disparagement, but the platform’s lawyers pulled several more tweets to make their case. In two other instances, Musk tags the SEC’s Twitter account and calls upon them to investigate Twitter’s financial disclosures, which have claim that more than 95% of monetizable daily active users are humans. As the lawsuit reads, “Musk’s conduct simply confirms that he wants to escape the binding contract he freely signed, and to damage Twitter in the process.”

An image from Twitter's lawsuit against Elon Musk showing that he is trying to escape the contract

Image Credits: Twitter

An image from Twitter's lawsuit against Elon Musk showing that he is trying to escape the contract

Twitter’s lawyers also included a meme that Musk posted just yesterday, which shows the billionaire laughing alongside text making fun of the platform: “They said I couldn’t buy Twitter. Then they wouldn’t disclose bot info. Now they want to force me to buy Twitter in court. Now they have to disclose bot info in court.”

Then, he tweeted a meme of Chuck Norris playing chess and declared, “Chuckmate.”

Elon Musk memes in Twitter lawsuit

Elon Musk memes in Twitter lawsuit

Does Elon Musk understand that Chuck Norris memes haven’t been funny since before Tesla manufactured its first car? Perhaps he’s too busy single-handedly increasing the U.S. birth rate to keep up with pop culture. Regardless, Twitter used these memes to argue that Musk sees this hugely impactful acquisition as “an elaborate joke.”

This is far from the first time we’ve seen memes hit the courtroom — in 2013, the creators of the memes Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat earned a settlement after suing Warner Brothers for unauthorized use of their copyright in a video game. That incident alone was almost ten years ago. Now, even your tea-spilling group chats can get subpoenaed and prominently displayed in a New York Times feature.

It’s not even the first time that Musk has gotten in serious legal trouble for his bad jokes.

In 2018, Musk tweeted that he was considering taking Tesla private for $420 a share and had already secured funding. Of course, he was just making a low-hanging weed joke, so the SEC charged Musk with fraud over “false and misleading” tweets. As a result, Musk stepped down as Tesla board chairman, the company paid a $20 million fine, and after making an agreement with the SEC, he now must have tweets about Tesla proofread by lawyers-turned-“Twitter sitters.”

This is, however, the first time that memes will play a role in determining the fate of a massive corporate acquisition. We hope the judges at the Delaware Court of Chancery have fun.

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Uber to sunset free loyalty program in favor of subscription membership

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Ride-hailing giant Uber is shutting down its free loyalty program, Uber Rewards, so it can focus on its subscription-based Uber One membership.

Uber first launched the rewards program in 2018 as a sort of frequent flyer scheme that allowed riders to earn points for every dollar spent on rides or Uber Eats deliveries. Those points could then be used to get discounts on future rides or deliveries. In November 2021, Uber began introducing Uber One, which, for $9.99 per month or $99.99 annually, allows members perks like 5% off certain rides or delivery orders and unlimited $0 delivery fees on food orders of over $15 and grocery orders of over $30.

In an email sent to customers that was picked up by The Verge, Uber said users can still earn points via the legacy rewards program until the end of August, and that they can redeem those points until October 31. Uber Rewards will officially shut down on November 1, 2022, according to an update posted by the company.

The Uber Rewards program allowed users to earn 1x point for every Uber Pool dollar spent, 2x for every UberX dollar spent and 3x for every $1 spent on Premium. The number of points accumulated would put members into different castes of loyalty, from Blue to Gold to Platinum to Diamond, the latter of which comes with benefits like access to highly rated drivers, free delivery on three Uber Eats orders, access to better customer service and free upgrades.

While phone support will continue for Diamond users, now the only way to get additional perks with Uber will be to shell out for a subscription. Existing Rewards members will get a free one-month subscription to Uber One, but then will be charged for access. If you’re someone who orders Uber Eats more than twice a month, you can easily break even with the Uber One subscription, but plenty of users might not see the money saving benefits in the switch.

Uber did not respond immediately for clarity as to why it is shutting down the Rewards program in favor of the Uber One membership. Perhaps the company did not see the returns and user loyalty that it would have expected from the program and thinks a subscription offering will provide better returns.

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Twilio gets hacked, teens ditch Facebook, and SpaceX takes South Korea to the moon

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Hi again! Welcome back to Week in Review, the newsletter where we quickly recap the top stories from TechCrunch dot-com this week. Want it in your inbox every Saturday? Sign up here.

Is Facebook for old people? If you’ve got a teenager around the house, you’ve probably heard them say as much. The most read story this week is on a Pew study that suggests this generation of teens has largely abandoned the platform in favor of Instagram/YouTube/TikTok/etc.; whereas in 2014 around 71% of teens used Facebook, the study says in 2022 that number has dropped down to 32%.

other stuff

Mark Cuban sued over crypto platform promotion: “A group of Voyager Digital customers filed a class-action suit in Florida federal court against Cuban, as well as the basketball team he owns, the Dallas Mavericks,” writes Anita, “alleging their promotion of the crypto platform resulted in more than 3.5 million investors losing $5 billion collectively.”

A troubling layoff trend: While tech layoffs might, maybe, hopefully be showing signs of slowing, Natasha M points out a troubling trend: some companies are announcing layoffs only to announce another round of layoffs just weeks or months later.

SpaceX launches South Korea’s first moon mission: South Korea has launched its first-ever lunar mission — a lunar orbiter “launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket” ahead of plans to land on the surface some time in 2030.

Twilio gets hacked: While it’s unclear exactly what data was taken, Twilio says the data of at least 125 customers was accessed after some of its employees were tricked “into handing over their corporate login credentials” by an intense SMS phishing attack.

Amazon’s bizarre new show: Think “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” but made up of user-submitted footage from Ring security cameras. By now most people probably realize their every step is recorded on a security camera or three — but doesn’t embracing it as Entertainment™ like this feel kind of…icky?

Haus hits hard times: Haus, a company that ships specialized low-alcohol drinks direct to consumers, is looking for a buyer after a major investor backed out of its Series A. The challenge? Investor diligence for an alcohol company can take months, and Haus just doesn’t “have the cash to support continued operations at this time.”

woman pouring wine

Image Credits: Haus

audio stuff

How clean is the air you breathe every day? Aclima co-founder Davida Herzl wants everyone to be able to answer that question, and sat down with Jordan and Darrell on this week’s Found podcast to explain her mission. Meanwhile on Chain Reaction, Jacquelyn and Anita explain the U.S. gov’s crackdown of the cryptocurrency mixer Tornado Cash, and the Equity crew spent Wednesday’s show discussing whether the turbulent market conditions of late will mean we see fewer early-stage endeavors in the months ahead.

additional stuff

What lies behind the paywall? A lot of really good stuff! Here’s what TechCrunch+ subscribers were reading most this week…

Building an MVP when you can’t code: Got a great idea but can’t code? You can still get the ball rolling. Magnus Grimeland, founder of the early-stage VC firm Antler, lays out some of the key principles to keep in mind.

Are SaaS valuations staging a recovery?: “…the good news for software startup founders,” writes Alex, “is that the period when the deck was being increasingly stacked against them may now be behind us.”

VCs and AI-powered investment tools: Do VCs want AI-powered tools to help them figure out where to put their money? Kyle Wiggers takes a look at the concept, and why not all VCs are on board with it.

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After the FBI raid at Mar-a-Lago, online threats quickly turn into real-world violence

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Threats of violence reached a fever pitch — reminiscent of the days leading up to the Capitol attack — following the news that the FBI raided Trump’s Florida beach club to retrieve classified documents the former president may have unlawfully taken there.

After Trump himself confirmed Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago, pro-Trump pundits and politicians rallied around declarations of “war,” and Trump’s ever-fervent supporters called for everything from dismantling the federal law enforcement agency to committing acts of violence against its agents. The situation escalated from there in record time, with online rhetoric boiling over quickly into real-world violence.

By Thursday, an armed man identified as Ricky Shiffer attempted to force his way into an FBI office in Cincinnati, Ohio, brandishing a rifle before fleeing. Law enforcement pursued Shiffer and he was fatally shot during the ensuing standoff with police.

Analysts with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD), a nonprofit that researches extremism and disinformation, found evidence that Shiffer was driven to commit violence by “conspiratorial beliefs related to former President Trump and the 2020 election…interest in killing federal law enforcement, and the recent search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago earlier this week.” He was also reportedly present at the January 6 attack — another echo between this week’s escalating online threats and the tensions that culminated in political violence at the Capitol that day.

Shiffer appears to have been active on both Twitter and Truth Social, the platform from Trump’s media company that hosts the former president and his supporters. As Thursday’s attack unfolded, Shiffer appeared to post to Truth Social about how his plan to infiltrate the FBI office by breaking through a ballistic glass barrier with a nail gun had gone awry. “Well, I thought I had a way through bullet proof glass, and I didn’t,” the account posted Thursday morning. “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I., and it’ll mean either I was taken off the internet, the F.B.I. got me, or they sent the regular cops…”

In posts on Truth Social, the account implored others to “be ready to kill the enemy” and “kill the FBI on sight” in light of Monday’s raid at Mar-a-Lago. It also urged followers to heed a “call to arms” to arm themselves and prepare for combat. “If you know of any protests or attacks, please post here,” the account declared earlier this week.

By Friday, that account was removed from the platform and a search of Shiffer’s name mostly surfaced content denouncing his actions. “Why did you censor #rickyshiffer‘s profile? So much for #truth and #transparency,” one Truth Social user posted on Friday. Still, online conspiracies around the week’s events remain in wide circulation on Truth Social and elsewhere, blaming antifa for the attack on the Ohio FBI office, accusing the agency of planting documents at Mar-a-Lago and sowing unfounded fears that well-armed IRS agents will descend on Americans in light of Friday’s House passage of the Inflation Reduction Act.

“‘Violence against law enforcement is not the answer no matter what anybody is upset about or who they’re upset with,’ FBI director Christopher Wray said in light of emerging threats of violence this week. Trump appointed Wray to the role in 2017 after infamously ousting former FBI director James Comey.”

Friday is also the five-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, which saw white nationalists clad in Nazi imagery marching openly through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. The ensuing events left 32-year-old protester Heather Heyer dead and sent political shockwaves through a nation that had largely grown complacent about the simmering threat of white supremacist violence.

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