Elon Musk has reiterated his claim that fake and spam accounts could make up more than 20 percent of Twitter’s users, saying the deal to acquire the social media company “cannot move forward” until Twitter proves the accuracy of its much lower estimate of less than 5 percent. Musk is currently in the process of buying Twitter and its estimated 226 million monetizable daily active users for $44 billion.
“20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher,” the Tesla CEO tweeted in response to a report from Teslarati. “My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”
Musk made similar comments at a Miami tech conference yesterday, Bloomberg reported at the time. During the presentation, the Tesla CEO estimated that bots could make up at least 20 percent of Twitter’s users. “Currently what I’m being told is that there’s just no way to know the number of bots,” said Musk. “It’s like, as unknowable as the human soul.”
In a statement given to Bloomberg on Tuesday, Twitter said it is “committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price and terms as promptly as practicable.”
There’s been speculation that Elon Musk is using the discussion of the number of bots on Twitter as a tactic to negotiate a lower acquisition price. At yesterday’s conference, the CEO said a viable deal at a lower price wouldn’t be “out of the question,” Bloomberg reported.
Today’s comments come days after Musk said his deal to acquire the social media network was “temporarily on hold” over concern with the number of reported spam or fake accounts. Although he later said he’s “still committed to [the] acquisition.”
The Tesla CEO’s attempts to get clarity on these numbers led to a public spat with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal on Monday. Agrawal offered details on the number of spam accounts that Twitter suspends every day, and outlined how the team identifies them. But he added that “we don’t believe this specific estimation can be performed externally, given the critical need to use both public and private information (which we can’t share).” Musk responded to his lengthy tweet thread with the turd emoji.
“So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money?” Musk tweeted. “This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter.” The Tesla CEO had suggested publicly sampling 100 accounts and identifying the number of bots as verification.
Musk has made addressing the number of spam and inauthentic accounts on Twitter a key part of his pitch for how he’d improve the service under his ownership. He’s also spoken about his desire to prioritize free speech, and open source the platform’s algorithms.
Update May 17th, 6:29AM ET: Updated with statement from Twitter.