Elon Musk Bot’s Twitter problem is unusual

in the three weeks since mr. Musk cited the fake accounts as the reason for his $44 billion Twitter takeover plan a company

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“Pending,” observers and deal participants baffled about the thinking behind the billionaire’s comments. The case is not new for Mr. Musk, who has complained for years about Twitter’s ability to measure and manage automated accounts on the platform that often produces spam.

Whatever his intention to raise the issue it is clear that mr. Musk had unusually intense interactions with robots. As a regular megaphone with over 95 million followers, Tesla a company

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Researchers say that the CEO is likely to have much more exposure and experience dealing with fake accounts and spam than most social media platforms. One estimate says that spam, fake or inactive accounts make up the vast majority of his followers.

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the master. Musk is an “extreme among the outliers,” said Darius Kazemi, a computer programmer who has spent a decade creating and studying botnets and is currently the chief software engineer at Medan, a technology nonprofit that aims to combat misinformation. “His experience will be different not only from the average user, but also from the average celebrity.”

the master. Musk did not respond to requests for comment. Twitter declined to comment for this article but defended its war against spam accounts.

Researchers say that mr. Musk’s prominence and interaction with other users, as well as the topics he shares on Twitter, make him a magnet for people looking to spread spam and other suspicious content. He has tweeted nearly every day for the past four years, and most of his tweets are mentions or replies to other users, encouraging attention seekers — humans and bots alike — to respond to him.

Others with large followings – like former President Barack Obama, singer Justin Bieber and footballer Cristiano Ronaldo – don’t tweet as much or interact as much.

Fake accounts and spam are an industry-wide problem and can cause problems for advertisers and bad experiences for users. Accounts can be difficult to discover, and are usually managed by bots, which are computer programs that can automate posts and responses. Many bots are programmed to achieve illegitimate goals, such as spreading false information and tricking people into spending money, tech and social media analysts say, but others have more benign purposes, such as sharing news and weather alerts.

the master. Musk’s sudden escalation of the bot affair last month has raised suspicion among observers that he is using it as a negotiating tactic to lower the price amid market turmoil, or exit a takeover deal. That’s partly because he’s complained about fake accounts on Twitter for years — long before he agreed to buy the platform in late April, which he waived as part of his detailed due diligence on the deal. In 2018, he tweeted“Lots of fake accounts on Twitter have a high follow/following ratio to make it look like a lot of real people when it isn’t. I wonder why.”

the master. Musk’s feed is flooded with tweets that sell products, demand money, and advance political agendas, which could be bots, coordinate groups, or individuals. Responses to a recent tweet from mr. Musk on computer programming, for example, has promoted new digital currencies for pet owners and the LGBT community. Some bots are transparent, including a bot whose bio says it is automated to explain tweets in simpler words.

External estimates of the share of fake accounts on Twitter vary – and they all suffer from a lack of access to company data. But whatever the overall ratio, industry experts say it’s probably much higher for Mr. musk.

about 70% of mr. Musk’s Twitter followers are spam, fake, or inactive, as opposed to 41% of all other accounts with between 65 million and 120 million followers, according to an estimate last month from SparkToro LLC, the maker of audience research software. The study showed that across the company’s data set, the average Twitter user has fewer than 100 followers and less than 10% of accounts are fake or spam.

the master. Computer scientist and Ph.D. Kaicheng Yang said a candidate at Indiana University researches bot activity on social media and helped build a bot detection tool called Botometer. “If I’m a fraud, do I look at the average user? No.”

Twitter says it combats fake accounts and spam aggressively and suspends and bans millions of accounts every week. False or spam accounts have long been estimated to represent less than 5% of monetized daily active users or users — a figure, recently set at 229 million, which he confirms to advertisers.

Twitter will go private if Elon Musk’s $44 billion takeover offer is approved. This step will allow Mask to make changes to the site. Dan Gallagher of the Wall Street Journal explains the changes Musk has proposed and the challenges he might face when activating them. (Originally published April 26) Illustration: Jordan Crans

the master. Musk questioned that estimate and doubted that the true share was much higher. hello recently He described Twitter rules as “very bot-friendly.” On Saturday, he drew attention to a tweet referring to the use of spam and bots for “disinformation and false news against Elon”. the master. catch Reply with one word to this tweet“Interesting” has garnered nearly 20,000 likes.

Twitter has maintained its credit. “We do not believe that this specific estimate can be made externally, given the critical need to use both public and private information (which we cannot share),” Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal said,

Tweet last month Reply to mr. Musk’s comments about suspending the deal due to doubts about the company’s bot estimates. the master. Musk responded by tweeting an emoji about a tube.

“Anyone who uses Twitter is well aware that comment threads are riddled with spam, scams, and a lot of fake accounts,” Musk said at a tech conference in mid-May called All-in Summit.

Marketing executives said advertisers were aware of the existence of bot and spam accounts on social media — not just Twitter — and factored this into their strategies and metrics.

whatever mr. Tech and social media experts say Musk’s intent, bad bots, and fake accounts can pose a threat to Twitter, such as making a problem appear to be trending or affecting behavior.

“Suddenly something fake became really popular,” said Sandy Carrilli, principal analyst at Forrester Research. a company

“While I wouldn’t imagine Musk’s motives for raising the issue, he is right that it is a problem.”

write to Sarah E. Needleman at sarah.needleman@wsj.com

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