Elon Musk: Twitter deal ‘cannot move forward’ until company proves spam bot numbers

Elon Musk took to Twitter early Tuesday to say his $44 billion deal to purchase the social network “cannot move forward” until CEO Parag Agrawal can publicly prove that spam bots comprise fewer than 5% of the platform’s users.

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In the post, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO wrote that he believes one-fifth of Twitter accounts are phony, repeating a claim he made at a Miami technology conference Monday. Twitter had said in Security and Exchange Commission filings that fake accounts comprised “fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily active users” in the first months of 2022, Reuters reported earlier this month.

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“20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher,” Musk tweeted shortly after 3:30 a.m. EDT Tuesday. “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 appeared to be referring to a series of tweets that Agrawal shared Monday, outlining some of the ways the company uses private and public data to calculate the number of fake accounts.

“Unfortunately, we don’t believe that this specific estimation can be performed externally, given the critical need to use both public and private information (which we can’t share),” Agrawal wrote.

Last week, Musk tweeted that the deal was “temporarily on hold,” The Associated Press reported at the time.

Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk wrote Friday morning.

In a second tweet Friday, Musk added that he is “still committed to (the) acquisition.”

Musk, 50, previously has spoken out against spam accounts on the site.

“If our Twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying!” he tweeted April 21, adding that he would “authenticate all real humans.”

Days later, Twitter announced in an April 25 news release that “it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an entity wholly owned by Elon Musk, for $54.20 per share in cash in a transaction valued at approximately $44 billion.”

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Musk added in a statement: “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated. I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”

Regulatory filings made public on April 28 showed that Musk sold about $4 billion in Tesla stock in the two days after he agreed to purchase the social network, the AP reported at the time.

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Twitter fired two top managers Thursday: Kayvon Beykpour, a general manager, and Bruce Falck, the company’s revenue and product lead, according to the AP.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.