Musk says Twitter buyout won’t go ahead without clarity on spam accounts

Updated 14 hours ago

BILLIONAIRE ELON MUSK has said his Twitter buyout would not go through unless he was assured that fewer than five percent of accounts on the platform were fake.

“Yesterday the CEO of Twitter publicly refused to show proof of <5%," tweeted Musk, who has nearly 94 million followers on the social network.

“This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal yesterday defended the messaging platform’s battle against “bots” that Musk, the would-be buyer, claims are pestering the platform, only for the billionaire to respond with a poop emoji.

The exchange unfolded in tweets as Musk’s $44 billion purchase of Twitter remained “temporarily on hold,” pending questions about the social media company’s estimates of the number of fake accounts or ” bots”.

“It appears that the spam/bot problem is cascading and clearly makes the Twitter deal confusing,” Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said in a note to investors.

“The bot problem at the end of the day was known to the New York City cabbie and seems to us more like the ‘dog ate homework’ excuse to bail out the Twitter deal or drop a lower price.”

Agrawal said the platform suspends more than half a million apparently fake accounts daily, usually before they are even seen, and blocks millions more weekly that fail verifications to ensure they are controlled by humans and not software.

Internal measurements show that less than 5 percent of active accounts on any given day on Twitter are spam, but that analysis can’t be replicated externally due to the need to keep user data private, Agrawal said.

Musk, who has said that bots plague Twitter and that he would make getting rid of them a priority if he owned the platform, responded to Agrawal’s tweet with a poop emoji.

“So how do advertisers know what they are getting for their money?” Musk tweeted in a later reply about the need to prove that Twitter users are real people.

“This is critical to the financial health of Twitter.”

The process used to estimate how many accounts are bots has been shared with Musk, Agrawal said.

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Musk, head of SpaceX and Tesla, is currently listed by Forbes as the world’s richest person, with a fortune of about $230 billion, much of it in Tesla stock.

Seen by his champions as an iconoclastic genius and by his critics as an erratic megalomaniac, Musk surprised many investors in April with his search for Twitter.

Musk has described his motivation as stemming from a desire to ensure freedom of expression on the platform and to drive monetization for a website that is influential in media and political circles but has struggled to achieve profitable growth.

Musk said he favored lifting the ban on Donald Trump, who was kicked off the platform in January 2021 shortly after the former US president’s efforts to overturn his election defeat led to the January 6 assault on US Capitol

© AFP 2022

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