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Selerity used web crawler to grab “leaked” Twitter earnings report

Data company Selerity was able to report Twitter’s earnings before a scheduled release last week because the social media platform published its own quarterly earnings report online, a Selerity executive said on Sunday.

Selerity Chief Technology Officer Andrew Brook denied his company received Twitter’s quarterly earnings report from a leak or a hack as had been widely speculated in press reports. Instead, Selerity obtained the results early via computer software designed to grab information from websites within seconds of publication, Brook said.

Brook’s comments on the matter were made Sunday in a web article he wrote for the technology website Ars Technica.

In the article, Brook said Selerity’s digital analysts reviewed Twitter’s investor relations website back in 2014 to predict where future reports may land on the website. Those data analysts looked at a variety of factors, including where previous reports had been published on the site, Brook said.

Selerity analysts then used a piece of computer software known as a “web scraper” to periodically check Twitter’s investor relations website for new reports. Brook said Selerity’s web scraper picked up on the quarterly earnings release at 3:07 p.m. Eastern Time, and that Selerity’s Twitter account published an automated tweet based on the report three seconds later.

Twitter had intended to release its earnings report at the end of the trading day. Selerity’s discovery and subsequent tweet of the report caused Twitter’s stock to drop more than 18 percent before trading was suspended; Twitter eventually re-released the report, which showed dismal quarterly revenue and lower-than-expected user growth, and the stock continued to fall in after-hours trading.

Brook offered no apology for Selerity’s early release of the report, saying the move was “just a taste of what’s to come.”

Ars Technica: How Selerity reported Twitter’s earnings on Twitter before Twitter

[Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Brook’s position at Selerity. He is the Chief Technology Officer, not the Chief Executive Officer.]

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).