Twitter CEO Elon Musk testified Friday that his tweets aren’t all that big, as he tried to defend himself against a class-action lawsuit that claimed investors lost billions of dollars on one of his tweets about taking Tesla private.
“It is difficult to say that the share price is linked to [a] tweet,” he told jurors in San Francisco federal court. “Just because I tweet about something doesn’t mean people believe it or will act on it,” he added, Reuters reported.
Musk is being sued for alleged fraud over the fortunes lost when he tweeted in August 2018 that he was taking his car company private and had “funded himself”.
The deal never happened, and investors who acquired shares in an attempt to profit from the plan lost money when it simply disappeared.
Musk insisted on the witness stand that his tweets “are truthful — just short,” though he never took Tesla private and there was no evidence he had secured financing.
He was not asked specifically about the Tesla tweet, Reuters noted, but is expected to on Monday when he returns to the booth.
Musk said he generally provides “information that the public should hear,” but that there is only so much that can be conveyed in a short Twitter post.
He also argued that his tweets are not that powerful, even though he has 127 million followers and a visible effect on those followers’ actions.
Musk’s lawyer said Wednesday that his client was rushing to an airport when he made a “split-second decision” to post the tweet after reading a news article that said Saudi Arabia was considering investing heavily in Tesla.
According to the shareholder lawsuit, Musk illegally manipulated the share price with his tweet, and he and Tesla’s board of directors will be held liable for an unspecified portion of billions of dollars in damages suffered by those who bought or sold the company’s stock after the tweet.
The suit is one of a number of issues facing Musk.
Twitter revenue has reportedly fallen 40% compared to the same time last year as advertisers pulled back from the social media platform. Musk bought the company in October for $44 billion.
Musk is also now under fire for allegedly overseeing the creation of a misleading video exaggerating Tesla’s self-driving capabilities, Bloomberg reported Thursday. “The car drives itself”, says the introduction to a video about Tesla’s “autopilot system”.
The video shows a driver moving around the city with his fingers barely touching – or not touching at all – the steering wheel. Still, Tesla’s own website warns Autopilot drivers to “keep your hands on the wheel at all times.”
The car company is under increasing scrutiny for a series of accidents that occurred in vehicles while they were in autopilot mode.