Elon Musk says his deal to purchase Twitter “cannot move forward” until the company can prove the total number of bots and spam accounts on its platform.
In a tweet post at 3:32 a.m. ET on Tuesday, Musk speculated that 20% of Twitter’s use base are “fake/spam accounts,” and that the true number “could be *much higher.”
“My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate,” Musk said. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%. The deal cannot move forward until he does.”
For its part, Twitter estimates that 5% or less of its users are bots or spam accounts. Responding to Musk’s uneasiness in a tweet thread on Monday, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal discussed the challenge of combating such accounts, and detailed the company’s ongoing efforts to do so.
“Fighting spam is incredibly *dynamic*. The adversaries, their goals, and tactics evolve constantly – often in response to our work!” Agrawal explained. “You can’t build a set of rules to detect spam today, and hope they will still work tomorrow. They will not.”
Agrawal said the company suspends over half a million spam accounts daily, and locks “millions of accounts each week that we suspect may be spam – if they can’t pass human verification challenges (captchas, phone verification, etc).”
As such, “Our actual internal estimates for the last four quarters were all well under 5%,” Agrawal contended. “The error margins on our estimates give us confidence in our public statements each quarter.
He also said, “We don’t believe that this specific estimation can be performed externally, given the critical need to use both public and private information (which we can’t share). Externally, it’s not even possible to know which accounts are counted as [monetizable Daily Active Users] on any given day.”
But Musk didn’t buy Agrawal’s explanation, and responded to his tweet thread with a poop emoji.
Why Musk felt comfortable to commit $44 billion of his net worth — including a $1 billion early termination fee — to purchase Twitter before doing such due diligence is a reasonable question. Some tech analysts speculate that Musk’s 11th hour tweets are a tactic designed to tank Twitter’s stock price, and thus allow for him to purchase the company for well below the $44 billion price tag. (If true, Musk could be in violation of laws meant to protect market manipulation.)
Others, as my colleague Wren Graves outlined last week, believe Musk may be experiencing cold feet after Tesla’s own stock fell more than 30% in the time since he announced he would be leveraging the company’s stock to finance his Twitter deal.
20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher.
My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate.
Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%.
This deal cannot move forward until he does.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 17, 2022