Musk seeks proof of the Twitter spam bot’s share to advance the deal

May 17 (Reuters) – Elon Musk said Tuesday that his $44 billion offer won’t go ahead until Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) shows evidence that spam bots account for less than 5% of its total users, hours after he proposed The possibility of seeking a lower price for the company.

“Based my offer on the accuracy of Twitter’s SEC filings. Yesterday, the CEO of Twitter publicly refused to provide evidence of <5% (spam accounts). Can't move forward with this deal until he does," Musk said in a tweet.

After suspending his presentation last week about pending information about spam accounts, Musk said he suspected they made up at least 20% of users — compared to Twitter’s official estimate of 5%.

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“You can’t pay the same price for something much worse than what they claimed,” he said at the All-In Summit 2022 in Miami on Monday.

Asked if the Twitter deal would be viable at a different price, Musk said at the conference, “I mean, that’s absolutely out of the question. The more questions I ask, the more concerns I have.”

“They claim to have this complex methodology that no one else can understand… It can’t be a deep mystery more complex than the human soul or something like that.”

On Monday, the stock had fallen more than 8% to close at $37.39, lower than the day before Musk disclosed his stake on Twitter in early April, raising doubts that the billionaire businessman will proceed with the acquisition at the agreed-upon price.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted Monday that internal estimates of spam accounts on the social media platform for the past four quarters have been “well below 5%,” responding to Musk’s criticism of Days over the company’s handling of fake accounts.

Agrawal said Twitter’s estimate, which has remained the same since 2013, cannot be reproduced externally due to the need to use public and private information to determine if an account is spam.

Musk responded to Agrawal’s defense of methodology with a stool emoji. “How do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money? This is fundamental to Twitter’s financial health,” he wrote.

Musk has vowed to make changes to Twitter’s content editing practices, dismissing decisions such as banning former President Donald Trump as overly aggressive while vowing to combat “spam software.” Read more

Musk called for tests on random samples of Twitter users to identify bots. He said, “There is a possibility that more than 90% of daily active users are.”

Independent researchers have estimated that 9% to 15% of the millions of Twitter profiles are bots. Spam bots or fake accounts are designed to manipulate or artificially boost activity on social media platforms such as Twitter. Read more

Twitter currently does not require users to sign up with their real identities and explicitly allows automated, parodic, and pseudonymous profiles.

It prohibits impersonation and spam, and penalizes accounts when it determines their purpose is to “deceive or manipulate others” by engaging in fraud, coordinating abuse campaigns, or artificially inflating engagement.

Musk’s comments to the private audience could raise concerns about his disclosure of market-moving information.

Musk, known for his candid Twitter posts, has a long history of skirmishing with the SEC. Recently, a US judge criticized him for trying to escape a settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission that required oversight of his tweets on Tesla.

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Additional reporting by Katie Paul and Hyunjoo Jin in San Francisco and Crystal Ho in New York; Chobham Kalia in Bengaluru Editing by Kenneth Lee, Matthew Lewis, Bernard Orr and Aditya Soni

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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