The move aims to end the standoff with the billionaire, who has threatened to walk away from his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter unless the company provides access to data he says is needed to assess the number of fake users on the platform.
The person said the information could be provided as soon as this week. Currently, more than two dozen companies pay for access to the group, which includes not only a real-time history of tweets but also the devices through which you tweet, as well as information about the accounts that tweet.
Musk’s legal team maintains that data flow is necessary to understand the amount of spam and bot activity on its platform, a number that could impact the company’s advertising revenue, according to a letter sent to Twitter on Monday.
Musk said the deal is on hold until he gets the information, adding to speculation that he is trying to pull out or renegotiate his purchase at a lower price. When he signed his initial deal to buy the company in April, he waived his right to take a deep look at Twitter’s finances and inner workings. The purchase agreement requires the holder to continue the deal unless he can show that the company has misled him or that a significant event has changed its value.
Elon Musk threatens to back out of Twitter deal over data blocking
Twitter leaders question Musk’s ability to use a fire hose to find previously undiscovered information: the data stream has been available for years to companies paying Twitter for the ability to analyze it to find patterns and insights in everyday conversation. They say, along with some analysts and insiders in Silicon Valley, that Musk is using the data requests as an excuse to evade the deal or negotiate a lower price.
Spam activity is important to his team because if Twitter were to reduce the importance of spam on its service, the company’s estimates of the number of users whose ads could be served would be smaller, affecting revenue.
In a letter Monday addressed to Twitter’s general counsel, Vijaya Gadi, Musk’s lawyers accused Twitter of refusing to provide information about spam and fake accounts requested by the billionaire, the world’s richest man, since May 9.
Lawyers from Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom stated that “Musk must have a complete and thorough understanding of the core core of Twitter’s business model – an active user base.” “Twitter’s recent offer to simply provide additional details regarding the company’s testing methodologies, whether through written materials or verbal explanations, amounts to Mr. Mask’s refusal of Musk’s data requests.”
Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Twitter spokesperson Scott Besang referred the Washington Post to the company’s statement on Monday. “Twitter has and will continue to collaboratively share information with Mr. Musk is completing the transaction in accordance with the terms of the merger agreement. We believe this agreement is in the best interest of all shareholders. We intend to close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement at the agreed price and terms,” the statement said.
Twitter’s challenges with bots and fake accounts have been around for nearly as long as the 16-year-old platform. For years, the company has reported that bot and spam accounts account for less than 5 percent of users on the service, a figure the company derived from extensive audits. (This number does not include automated accounts that the service allows.)
But some outside researchers, based on their studies, suggest the percentage is much higher – perhaps double or triple the 5 percent figure.
Questions about bots are nothing new on Twitter
Musk began complaining about the bot problem shortly after he agreed to buy and sell the company for $44 billion in April. He used his huge Twitter megaphone to threaten to put the deal on hold and insist the deal can’t “move forward” until Twitter provides further proof of its spam detection methods.
Musk set aside more than $33 billion of his private wealth, which comes largely from his ownership of Tesla, to complete the deal. But with the stock market affected by the global downturn, Tesla stock values have plummeted, and some analysts have speculated that Musk is feeling buyer’s remorse.
Fayez Seddiqi contributed to this report.