20-50% Twitter accounts fake, says Elon Musk, mocks Parag Agrawal in tweet

20-50% Twitter accounts fake, says Elon Musk, mocks Parag Agrawal in a tweet

Elon Musk said on Tuesday his $44 billion offer would not move forward until Twitter Inc shows proof that spam bots account for less than 5% of its total users, hours after suggesting he could seek a lower price for the company.

“My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5% (spam accounts). This deal cannot move forward until he does,” Musk said in a tweet.

After putting his offer on hold last week pending information on spam accounts, Musk said he suspected they make up at least 20% of users – compared with Twitter’s official estimates of 5%.

“Currently I am being told that there is no way to know the number of bots on Twitter, its unknowable, it’s like the human soul basically,” Musk said as the panel at the podcast broke out into peals of laughter.

Getting serious for a moment, Musk then said: “The number of real unique humans that you see making comments on a daily basis on Twitter is above 95 per cent, that is what they (Twitter) are claiming. Does anyone have that experience?” And cue the laughter again.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal on Monday posted a thread on Twitter explaining why Musk’s earlier suggestion of sampling 100 random accounts to determine the proportion of fake ones wouldn’t work. Musk responded to Agrawal’s post with a poop emoji.

Agrawal said in his thread that Twitter’s estimate of what proportion of accounts are spam was based on “multiple human reviews (in replicate) of thousands of accounts.” He said Twitter’s internal teams randomly sampled accounts the company considered to be “monetizable daily active users.”

It’s possible Musk is using his professed concern over fake accounts as a pretext to force Twitter back to the negotiating table and get a better price for his deal.

On Monday, Musk told the All In Summit in Miami that renegotiating his Twitter deal to a lower price wouldn’t be “out of the question,” Bloomberg reported.

Twitter stock has tanked by tanked by more than 20 per cent ($36.80 on Tuesday) from the time Musk made his his offer of $ 54.20 per share, and indications are that he now wants to renegotiate the $44 billion deal using the fake accounts issue.

On its part, the Twitter board indicated it intends to hold Musk to the deal they agreed on. “Twitter is committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. If Musk reneges on the agreement, there could be protracted legal battles.

Musk has pledged changes to Twitter’s content moderation practices, railing against decisions like the company’s ban of former President Donald Trump as overly aggressive while pledging to crack down on “spam bots” on the platform.

Musk has called for tests of random samples of Twitter users to identify bots, and said he has yet to see “any” analysis that shows spam accounts making up less than 5% of the user base.

Musk said on Sunday “there is some chance it might be over 90% of daily active users.”

Independent researchers have estimated that anywhere from 9% to 15% of the millions of Twitter profiles are bots.

Twitter does not currently require users to register using their real identities, and automated, parody and pseudonymous profiles are expressly permitted on the service. 

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