Elon Musk Says Twitter Deal Can’t Move Forward Without More Clarity On Fake Accounts

Elon Musk Says Twitter Deal Can’t Move Forward Without More Clarity On Fake Accounts

Elon Musk said his $44 billion purchase of Twitter Inc. can’t move forward until the company is clearer about how many of its accounts are fake, casting fresh doubt on his planned takeover of the social-media company.

Mr. Musk’s latest comments add to questions about whether he is committed to concluding a deal that was struck amid a steep selloff in technology stocks. Last week, he said he had put the deal on hold over concerns about fake accounts on the platform.

In a tweet early Tuesday, Mr. Musk said that Twitter’s chief executive had refused to show proof that less than 5% of Twitter’s accounts were fake. “This deal cannot move forward until he does,” he said.

Mr. Musk said his offer was based on Twitter’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission being accurate, and added: “20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher.”

On Monday, Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal defended his company’s efforts to fight spam.

“First, let me state the obvious: spam harms the experience for real people on Twitter, and therefore can harm our business,” Mr. Agrawal said as part of a series of posts on Monday. “As such, we are strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can, every single day. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just wrong.”

He said Twitter suspends more than half a million spam accounts a day and locks millions of accounts suspected of being fake weekly if they can’t be verified by humans.

Last week, Mr. Musk, the CEO of Tesla Inc., said he would try to verify Twitter’s numbers and said others should do the same. Mr. Agrawal suggested that external estimates of spam accounts wouldn’t be accurate.

“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],” Mr. Agrawal said Monday. “Externally, it’s not even possible to know which accounts are counted as mDAUs on any given day,” he added, referring to monetizable daily active users.

Mr. Musk responded with a number of tweets, with one showing a poop emoji.

Twitter stock fell in early premarket trading Tuesday, declining 1.6% to $36.78. That took the shares further below the $54.20 a share at which Mr. Musk had agreed to buy the company.

Some outside analyses have found that Twitter may have more fake accounts than it discloses—though they use different methodology than Twitter and include accounts that the company excludes from its estimates.

SparkToro, a Seattle-based market-research company, says its analysis of a representative sample of active Twitter accounts found that 19% fit what it calls a conservative definition of fake or spam accounts.

But SparkToro specifies that its definition of fake accounts includes all accounts that don’t regularly have a human composing their tweets, which are common on Twitter for sending such information as news updates, inspirational quotes and stock-price changes. Twitter offers tools for developers to build automated bots.


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Author: Shirley