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Musk: Twitter deal can’t go ahead without proof under 5% of accounts are bots

Tesla CEO says he wants confirmation of platform’s estimates on number of fake users, claims true number is at least 20% or higher; comment bolsters theory he may not want deal

CEO Elon Musk departs from the justice center in Wilmington, Delaware, July 13, 2021. (AP/Matt Rourke, File)
CEO Elon Musk departs from the justice center in Wilmington, Delaware, July 13, 2021. (AP/Matt Rourke, File)

LONDON — Tesla CEO Elon Musk said his deal to buy Twitter can’t move forward unless the company shows public proof that less than 5 percent of the accounts on the social media platform are fake or spam.

Musk made the comment in a reply to another user on Twitter early Tuesday. He spent much of the previous day in a back-and-forth with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, who posted a series of tweets explaining his company’s effort to fight bots and how it has consistently estimated that less than 5% of Twitter accounts are fake.

In his tweet Tuesday, Musk said that “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.”

He added: “Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of 5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

It’s Musk’s latest salvo over inauthentic accounts, a problem he has said he wants to rid Twitter of.

At a Miami technology conference Monday, Musk estimated that at least 20% of Twitter’s 229 million accounts are spam bots, a percentage he said was at the low end of his assessment, according to a Bloomberg News report.

FILE – Part of the Twitter page of Elon Musk is seen on the screen of a computer in Sausalito, Calif., April 25, 2022 (Eric Risberg/AP)

The battle over spam accounts kicked off last week when Musk tweeted that the Twitter deal was on hold pending confirmation of the company’s estimates that they make up less than 5% of total users.

Also at the All In Summit, Musk gave the strongest hint yet that he would like to pay less for Twitter than the $44 billion offer he made last month.

He said a viable deal at a lower price would not be out of the question, according to the report by Bloomberg, which said it viewed a live stream video of the conference posted by a Twitter user.

Musk’s comments are likely to bolster theories from analysts that the billionaire either wants out of the deal or to buy the company at a cheaper price. His tweet Tuesday came in reply to one from a Tesla news site speculating that Musk “may be looking for a better Twitter deal as $44 billion seems too high.”

Musk made the offer to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share on April 14. Twitter shares have slid since then and are now down by just over 8%, to close at $37.39 on Monday.

To finance the acquisition, he has pledged some of his Tesla shares, but they have slumped by a third since the deal was announced.

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