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Elon Musk’s Secret Weapon: An Army of Twitter Bots

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In early November 2013, the news was not great for Tesla. A series of reports have documented instances of Tesla Model S sedans catching fire, causing the electric car maker’s share price to plummet.

Then, on the evening of November 7, within 75 minutes, eight automated accounts appeared on Twitter and began spreading positive feelings about Tesla. Over the next seven years, they posted more than 30 thousand such tweets.

With more than 500 million tweets sent daily across the network, this output is a drop in the ocean. But the initial search of David A. KirschProfessor Robert H. justified by any conventional financial analysis.

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Kirsch, co-author of theBubbles and malfunctionsThe boom and bust of technological innovation.

“The story of Tesla is very powerful,” Kirsch said. Despite the company’s many problems with bankruptcy, the vision of a business enterprise dominating the planet and saving the planet has enabled CEO Elon Musk to continue to sell stock to the public to keep it active. At a certain point, it becomes self-actualization.”

Among the questions Kirsch and his research assistant Moshin Choudhury are trying to answer is whether Twitter bots are intentionally programmed to manipulate stock trading.

Their inquiry comes as Musk indicates an intent to use his fortune and his giant Twitter followers to influence the platform’s future policies and directions. After buying nearly 10% of Twitter last month, Musk announced he would join the board of directors, but Twitter revealed on Monday that he changed his mind for unspecified reasons. Musk is a phenomenon on Twitter, constantly posting tweets to his 80 million followers that range from the ordinary to the obscene to the juvenile to the profane.

He settled fraud charges with the US Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 for allegedly deceiving investors into believing he had a deal to make Tesla private when he didn’t. He is now trying to invalidate this agreement in the courts.

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A Twitter bot is a fake account, programmed to search social media for specific news posts or content – Musk’s, for example – and respond with relevant, pre-programmed tweets: “Huge long-term growth prospects” or “Why is Tesla stock soaring today” or “Miss Tesla for delivery was meaningless.” Bots can also be programmed to send hateful or threatening messages to company critics.

Kirsch and Chowdhury collected and reviewed tweets related to Tesla from 2010, when the company went public, through the end of 2020.

During that period, Tesla lost $5.7 billion, even as its stock rose, and Musk became one of the richest humans on the planet; His net worth is estimated at $275 billion. Operational results can not justify Anything close to the company’s $1 trillion market capitalization, based on any kind of traditional stock-pricing metric.

Emails to Tesla and a Twitter message to Musk seeking comment for this story were not answered.

Using a program called a Botometer that social media researchers use to distinguish bot accounts from human accounts, the pair found that a fifth of the volume of tweets about Tesla were generated by bots. That’s not in line with giants like Amazon and Apple, but their bots tend to drive the stock market and tech stocks in general, with those companies as leaders, but not focusing on any particular narrative about the companies.

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While any direct link between the bot’s tweets and stock prices has yet to be determined, the researchers have found enough “smoke” to continue their project.

Over the 10-year study period, about 1.4 million tweets were generated from the top 400 accounts posted on the TSLA$ “cashtag”, 10% of which were generated by bots. The research showed that of the 157,000 tweets posted with the #TSLA hashtag, 23% were from bots.

Kirsch and Chowdhury traced 186 bot accounts related to Tesla and found that after each launch, the company’s stock rose in value by more than 2%. (They looked at the average stock return for the week prior to building the robot and for the week following.) While Tesla’s market capitalization has increased over the years, the price has seen dramatic ups and downs. Chowdhury said periods that have elapsed around the creation of bots have shown sharp increases, but outside those windows, trading has been much more volatile.

“This is not a causal relationship, but it does raise questions,” Kirsch said, about why there is a relationship that does not appear to be random. We are trying to understand the mechanism. It can’t just be a bunch of tweets that drive stock. People should notice, interpret, and act on them.”

Researchers are looking at the timing of tweets and overnight options activity in the stock market, among other factors. One big unknown: whether the bots are the work of entities with a direct financial interest in Tesla.

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The researchers found that Twitter bots were created on behalf of other companies, but that the content tended to be what they called “generic” marketing messages.

Whatever the impact on stock prices, campaign bots represent a new form of corporate content distribution or, as he calls it, “computerized propaganda,” Kirsch said.

“This computational content may have bolstered Tesla’s narrative from an emerging group of critics, relieved downward pressure on Tesla’s stock price and increased pro-Tesla sentiment from the time of the company’s initial public offering in June 2010 through the end of 2020,” reads a paper the researchers plan to present in International Symposium on Electric Vehicles in June in Oslo.

The newspaper describes Musk as a “unique personality on Twitter”, with 80 million followers. “It is not clear whether this strategy can be replicated by other companies,” the authors wrote.

If so, legal and ethical questions would become more salient. Should companies that use bots disclose their use to the Securities and Exchange Commission or comply with lobbying disclosure rules?

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These are questions Kirsch thinks regulators will need to consider as other companies see how Musk and Tesla have benefited from pursuing their own bots.

“It is important who stands in the public square and has a large megaphone to carry, and the juice with which they can amplify their statements,” he said.

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Why Embracer is taking over “Tomb Raider” and other video games

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Like many action heroes on screen, it was sidetracked as new stars emerged and began to attract more viewers with bigger weapons, better special effects, and more elaborate adventures.

That’s when Lars Wingfors spied on an opportunity and pounced on it.

Earlier this year, a little-known Swedish billionaire bought the rights to British archaeologist Lara Croft and the vehicle, turning her into a household name. After its debut 26 years ago, “Tomb Raider” has become one of the biggest selling video game franchises of all time, spawning profitable spin-offs and films starring Angelina Jolie And the Alicia Vikanderbefore faltering with the advent of larger mobile games and apps and gaming moved away from its core teenage male audience to young girls, college students, and families.

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Mirage Game Studios employees are working on an upcoming game called “Space for Sale”. Mirage, based in Karlstad, Sweden, is one of 132 game studios owned by Embracer.

(Jenny Ingmarson / For The Times)

Wingefors, Embracer, bought “Tomb Raider” from San Mateo-based Crystal Dynamics, along with the rights to dozens of game titles and other development studios from its parent company in May. For $300 million – an additional change in the $220 billion global gaming industry. Target? To buy relatively cheap, remake, relaunch and make big profits.

Screenshot showing a computer-generated woman mid-jump in a cave-like setting

Lara Croft in the 2006 game “Tomb Raider: Legend”.

(News agency)

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Within years, Embracer had acquired hundreds of game companies, publishers, and intellectual property rights from Los Angeles to Mumbai, allowing Wingefors, co-founder and CEO, to quietly build Europe’s largest gaming group. Today, Embracer is a publicly traded $5.7 billion company headquartered here in Karlstad, Sweden — the sleepy birthplace of the Wingefors of 65,000 people, about 160 miles west of Stockholm — and owns more video game studios than any other company in the world.

An increasing number of them are in California, where modern games were born in the Bay Area Atari and “Pong” In the 1970s before Japan took over the world of consoles with Nintendo, Sega and PlayStation. In the past two decades, gaming powerhouses have become more global, and some of the largest game makers have once again moved back to the West Coast of the United States.

They include Xbox maker Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, and Microsoft Activision Blizzard, the creators of the current bestselling Call of Duty game series in Santa Monica. in february, Super Nintendo Worldan immersive theme park based on the Mario Bros. franchise, will open at Universal Studios Hollywood.

For Wingefors and programmers around the world who dream of getting their next hit game, the Golden State is a prime destination.

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Bearded man in blue jacket and white shirt smiling with escalators in the background

Embracer fo-founder and CEO Lars Wingfors.

(Jenny Ingmarson / For The Times)

“A lot of what happens in the world originated in California. Games are no exception to this,” says Wingfors, 45. We’re now in this space that we call transmedia – Hollywood-related games, movies that can become games. This is where we want to be and how important this country is.

“We want a lot of games and make them the best,” Wingefors adds. “So we’re making acquisitions.”

He buys games that are little known or outdated but have a dedicated following, like “Tomb Raider,” “Legacy of Kain,” “Duke Nukem,” and a handful of “SpongeBob SquarePants” titles, which haven’t been seen in new releases for years. This month, Amazon Games announced a deal to publish the upcoming “Tomb Raider.”

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Embracer-owned studios are also promoting properties like “Goat Simulator,” a PC and console game whose concept is exactly what it sounds like – simulating the life of a goat, albeit one in the city with the mission of causing as much havoc and destruction as possible.

a man in a dark shirt sits at a desk with two computer monitors;  One says Space for Sale, and the other, Mirage Game Studios

Simon Rojder is the founder programmer of Mirage Game Studios.

(Jenny Ingmarson / For The Times)

Last year, Wingefors set his sights far beyond gaming, buying the rights to the “Lord of the Rings” franchise from a Bay Area derivatives group. JRR Tolkienliterary business, acquiring a French company that is among the world’s largest makers of board and card games and purchasing the Oregon-based “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, “Hellboy” and “Sin City” comic publisher.

“They’re not Microsoft or Sony. They seem to be just trying to get their hands on everything,” says John Hardy, longtime game collector and co-founder of the National Video Game Museum in Frisco, Texas.

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Or as a technology-oriented website the edge Put it: “Embracer Group, the company that creates one IP portfolio to control them all.”

The strategy has generated criticism and confusion in the gaming world. Some players accuse Embracer of sacrificing art, while others find the company’s approach scattered and incoherent.

“If you look at them from afar, you might wonder what the company is doing,” said Simon Rojder, a programmer who is the founder of Mirage, a Karlstad-based game studio that was acquired by Embracer in 2016. [Wingefors] It’s finding people who know what they’re doing and then leaving them alone.

“This company is called Big Dragon Monster Games because it absorbs everything. But they give you space to do your work. We feel completely independent, even if we’re not on paper.”

A man with brown hair and a brown plaid shirt sits at a table with circuit boards

Jukka Kovalainen, a technical engineer at the Embracer Games Archive, is soldering a power supply to an outdated game system.

(Jenny Ingmarson / For The Times)

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Today, Embracer oversees 237 games in development across 132 studios on every continent except Africa and Antarctica. More than 15,000 employees work for Embracer or companies under its umbrella.

In California, Embracer has a foothold in San Francisco, where it owns a studio that is developing the free-to-play gameStar Trek Online. Irvine is home to a recently acquired karaoke company, Singtrix, while SpringboardVR, a company focused on game development, is based in Los Angeles. In Agoura Hills, Embracer runs global marketing for Vertigo Games, a Dutch game studio and virtual reality group. It also has a distribution contract with Exploding Kittens, a Los Angeles game studio of the arcade game name Its popularity soared After launching on Kickstarter seven years ago.

Embracer’s rapid expansion comes as technology, gaming and the movie industry collide in a content race for any consumer’s attention and money. Driven in part by a boom during pandemic-era lockdowns, the price of the gaming industry is now rivaling that of Hollywood and music.

“People used to treat gaming as something teens did alone in their rooms that nobody else cared about, and that’s been accurate for a very long time,” says Hardy. “But the reality today is nowhere near that, so every company out there is trying to get a piece of the action.”

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Until Embracer’s sudden rise, Europe played only a minor role in the global gaming world, which routinely pits American game makers against those in Asia — namely China and Japan, home to Tencent and Sony respectively. Wingefors is struggling to make way for Sweden, a country of just 10.5 million people that has nonetheless produced great toys and game characters. If you hear aboutMaine Craftor “Candy Crush Saga,” you encountered games created by the Swedes.

Top view of a woman and three men, some smiling, seated around a table looking at a board game

Employees in the Mirage Game Studios office play a strategy board game while taking a break from work.

(Jenny Ingmarson / For The Times)

“I hope that one day this city of Karlstad will become a city of games,” says Wingfors, who looks more with his bland suits, slicked-back brown hair and penchant for talking about synergies, intellectual property and return on investment like a gamer financier.

That’s because that’s what it is.

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Raised by divorced parents outside of this wooden town, which is home to several major paper companies, he sold comics by mail order as a teenager to make money. He built a collection of 50,000 comics before selling them in order to start flipping through used video games, mainly old Nintendo cartridges, and left high school to run a company he called Nordic Games. It was a seven-store retail chain in Sweden in the late 1990s, which it sold for more than $7 million.

This story is part of our global project in California

Our correspondents travel the world, sharing stories that examine the complex relationship between the West Coast and the rest of the world.

In the early 2000s, he launched Game Outlet Europe, which purchased surplus game cartridges and CDs and resold them internationally, and funded the development of “We Sing”, a karaoke game for the Nintendo Wii. It was a hit, topping the Christmas game charts in 2009. Within years, Wingefors was investing in international game studios, hoping to repeat the win with other games through a company that became Embracer.

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For Wingefors, who owns a 21% stake in Embracer, business, not passion for gaming, drives him.

“I grew up playing the Commodore 64. I loved the games as much as any other guy growing up in Sweden. But for me, it was more about the people, the industry, and the business that got me excited.”

The thirst for a good deal and profits caused controversy.

Over the summer, Embracer accepted a $1 billion investment from the Saudi government, a move criticized by critics due to the oil-rich kingdom. A dismal record on human rights and freedom of expression. Asked about the 8.1% stake in Embracer that Arab Nation holds through its investment arm, Wingefors said only that he understands there are “different points of view” on the matter and that his foundation will strive for “inclusivity, humanity, freedom and openness.”

A top view of two people playing a video game in a room

Archivists Natalia Kovalainen, left, and Mikkel Relander, right, play Neo Geo AES “King of Fighters ’95” in the game room of the Embracer Games Archive.

(Jenny Ingmarson / For The Times)

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In another move that baffled observers, Wingefors has hired a team to collect every video game ever created for every platform throughout history. The Embracer Games Archive, announced in May, houses 60,000 games in a 16,000-square-foot industrial warehouse on the outskirts of Karlstad. To date, she has spent $2 million amassing her collection.

Four archivists unpack pallets of plastic-locked toys bought in bulk from auctions and record them in a growing database. The operation is run by David Bostrom, a Swedish YouTuber who is best known for posting videos of himself playing from his old game room in Örebro.

On any given day, his team could dump the Japanese-language catalog for the Famicom — a precursor to the Nintendo system that made Mario & Luigi Famous as Mickey Mouse For generations since the 80’s – or flick back old versions of “Final Fantasy”, the 3D role-playing game that sold millions of CDs in the 90’s for PlayStation systems.

Someone reaches for a box lined with bubble wrap containing video games, next to someone holding some games

The Embracer Games Archive staff unpacks a box of newly delivered games.

(Jenny Ingmarson / For The Times)

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“We’re trying to create a kind of history or heritage museum,” says Bostrom. “Embracer has many games and studios but far from everything is out there, so we want to give a picture of the full story of gaming.”

Archives and museums are usually open to researchers or the public. For now, Embracer is private.

Some have criticized these efforts as just another way Embracer can collect intellectual property. Critics say that if he can’t own the rights to the games outright, Wingefors can at least own the last remaining copies of them.

Not surprisingly, Wingefors saw it differently.

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“Legacy is part of the DNA of game companies, and absolutely games, because this industry is about stories,” he says. “So whether we’re bringing a title back to market or growing an archive, it’s our duty to be part of that legacy.”

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Emails reveal Sam Bankman’s flirtation with Fred to federal regulators

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Kiss Mid-December arrestCrypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried repeatedly claimed that he was a responsible business leader who sought greater regulation of cryptocurrency and wanted his industry to be part of the mainstream financial system.

But now that the CFTC, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Justice are prosecuting the 30-year-old for fraud, the extensive professional relationships he forged with current and former federal regulators risk embarrassing everyone involved.

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As CEO of FTX, a crypto exchange, Bankman-Fried hired several former federal regulators who helped him connect him to top officials in the company. CFTCAnd the The emails show the agency he hoped would be charged with regulating his industry.

Many of Bankman-Fried’s senior vice presidents were former regulators. Ryne Miller, General Counsel of FTX, previously served as legal advisor to Gary Gensler, the then CFTC Chairman who is now the SEC Chairman.

Mark Wittgen, former head of policy and organizational strategy at FTX and current director at LedgerX, an FTX subsidiary, previously served as acting chair and commissioner of the CFTC after he was Nominated for this position by the President Obama.

Gil Somers, another former CFTC commissioner, also served on FTX’s board of directors.

Miller helped arrange for Bankman-Fried to meet and have dinner with former CFTC Commissioner Dan Berkovitz, W.J Current General Counsel of the Supreme Education CouncilEmails obtained by The Times through a Freedom of Information Act request appear.

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Miller hosted the October 2021 dinner for Berkowitz and Bankman Fried at Rasika West End, an upscale Indian restaurant in Washington, D.C., Zack Dexter, CEO of Ledger X and FTX subsidiary Wetjen, and Michelle Bond, CEO of Assn. For Digital Assets Markets, they were also invited to dinner, but the records do not show whether they attended.

“I think the last time I went with you was at dinner with Gary at the CFTC, back in 2013,” Miller wrote to Berkowitz. Emails show that Berkowitz paid Miller for his $50 share of the dinner.

Miller also invited CFTC Commissioner Don Stamp to dine with Bankman-Fried or to visit FTX’s Chicago offices on November 3, 2021. It is uncertain if Stamp accepted the invitation. She could not be reached for comment. Stump left her position with the CFTC in April To work at Solidus LabsAnd the cryptocurrency company.

“I won’t comment. I understand the questions, but I don’t comment on inquiries at this time,” Miller told The Times when asked about the emails.

The SEC declined to comment on Berkowitz’s role in the current case against Bankman-Fried and other employees affiliated with FTX and FTX. On the same day, The Times asked questions about his role, Berkowitz announced his resignation From the Securities and Exchange Commission, effective January 31, 2023.

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Months before the dinner with Berkowitz, Wittgen requested an urgent meeting with current CFTC Chairman Rustin Behnam and David Gilers, Behnam’s chief of staff, to discuss the LedgerX issue.

“Seeking some time to discuss Ledger X matter of the utmost importance,” Wittgen wrote to Behnam on August 26, 2021, “Could you please accommodate a request for a brief discussion on this matter? Thank you very much for looking.”

Wittgen, Dexter — the CEO of LedgerX — and others managed to secure a meeting with Behnam only hours later.

Wittgen could not be reached for comment.

“These few emails show that the CFTC has an open-door policy of basically meeting whenever FTX wants to meet, including [with] Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a nonprofit advocating for financial regulation, told The Times. “FTX has hired former CFTC officials for the purpose, obviously, of accessing and influencing the CFTC, as FTX had a drastic proposal pending to dramatically change the structure and operations of the clearinghouses.”

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On December 1, Behnam Senate Committee on Agriculture He and Bankman-Fried met several times to discuss the CFTC’s consideration of FTX’s clearinghouse application. Behnam said Bankman-Fried took a “tough approach”.

“Over the past 14 months, we have met 10 times at the CFTC desk at their request in connection with … this clearing house application,” Behnam added. “There were very, very strong feelings about this application. And I felt I needed to be involved as head of the agency meeting directly with FTX and Mr. Bankman Fried.”

Stephen Adamsk, a Bahman spokesperson, said the clearinghouse request was never approved.

Bankman-Fried was scheduled to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on December 13, but was arrested in the Bahamas the night before. in a Prepared written testimonyBankman-Fried planned to say he was pressured into signing Chapter 11 bankruptcy papers that released his control of the now-bankrupt company.

“Most of that pressure came from Rain Miller,” Bankman-Fried wrote in the prepared affidavit, adding that attorneys at Sullivan & Cromwell, the law firm that oversees bankruptcy proceedings, also pressed him. “They also called many of my friends, co-workers, and family members… Some of them were emotionally damaged by the stress. Some of them came to me crying.”

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Bankman-Fried was deported to the United States to stand trial in the Southern District of New York. On Thursday, he was released into the custody of his parents on $250 million bail.

“We believe this is the largest pretrial bond ever,” said Assistant US Attorney Nicholas Ross He said. Bankman Fried will receive permission to travel from his parents’ home in Palo Alto to the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

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Meta agrees to pay $725 million over Cambridge Analytica scandal

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Meta Platforms has agreed to pay $725 million to settle a long-running lawsuit that alleged Facebook illegally shared user data with research firm Cambridge Analytica.

It is “the largest recovery ever achieved in a data privacy class action and the most paid by Facebook to resolve a private class action,” plaintiffs said in a lawsuit late Thursday.

The settlement brings Meta a step closer to resolving a 2018 lawsuit brought by Facebook users after it was revealed that the British research firm linked to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign had accessed the data of up to 87 million subscribers to the social network. . The agreement requires the approval of a federal judge who is overseeing the lawsuit.

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Consumer lawyers have steadily gained leverage to turn to the company’s internal records to support their claims that Facebook failed to protect their personal data. Facebook’s parent company could have been on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars more had it gone to trial and lost.

“We sought a settlement because it is in the best interest of our community and our shareholders,” Meta said in an emailed statement. “Over the past three years, we have revamped our approach to privacy and implemented a comprehensive privacy program. We look forward to continuing to build the services people love and trust with privacy at the forefront.”

Since the case was filed, Facebook has stopped allowing third parties to access users’ data through their friends, plaintiffs said in a court filing detailing the settlement. The company also strengthened its ability to restrict and monitor how third parties obtain and use Facebook users’ information, and improved its methods for telling users what information Facebook collects and shares about them, according to the filing.

last month google agreed to pay a total of $391.5 million to 40 US states to resolve an investigation into controversial location-tracking practices in what state officials have described as the largest privacy settlement in US history. Separately, a judge last month approved a $90 million meta deal to settle a lawsuit over the use of browser cookies and Facebook’s “Like” button to track user activity.

Meta said in a court filing in August that it had agreed to settle the Cambridge Analytica lawsuit, but no terms were disclosed at the time. A request a month ago showed that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg would have to sit through six hours of cross-examination by plaintiffs’ attorneys. The same filing indicated that former COO Sheryl Sandberg would have to testify as well.

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Facebook has argued that it disclosed its practices in user agreements. He also said that anyone sharing their information on a social network should not count on having their privacy upheld.

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