Twitter Takeover: Elon Musk Wants Fake Account Guarantees to Unlock Acquisition

According to an estimate released on Friday by software company SparkToro, 19.42% of Twitter accounts are fake or spam. (Photo: 123RF)

NEW YORK — Elon Musk is once again basing his takeover of Twitter on safeguards against bots and spam: the Tesla boss has indicated that the operation will not be completed until he has evidence that less than 5% of accounts are fake.

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However, Twitter appears to be poised for an acquisition as the company has filed a document with the US stock market police officer and pledged to “complete the deal at the agreed price and terms as soon as possible.”

“Yesterday, the CEO of Twitter refused to prove that less than 5% of the accounts were fake,” Mr. Musk, who has almost 94 million followers on the social network, wrote on Tuesday. “Until he does this, the deal cannot go ahead,” he added.

Mr. Musk cites clarifications given on Monday by Twitter boss Parag Agrawal about measures taken to combat spam and fake accounts.

Mr. Agrawal specifically pointed out that Twitter’s data that less than 5% of the platform’s accounts are fake was “based on repeated human analysis of accounts that were randomly selected.”

The quirky entrepreneur responded with a poop emoji.

“How do advertisers know how much they are actually paying?” he tweeted in response to Mr. Agrawal’s thread. “This is a fundamental issue for Twitter’s financial health.”

Speaking via video link at the conference on Monday, Musk estimated that fake accounts make up at least 20% of Twitter users, according to Bloomberg and tweets from people who attended the event.

Mr. Musk had already announced last Friday that he was suspending the acquisition of the company he said he wanted to buy for $44 billion due to a lack of clarity in the false reports. Hours later, he corrected the situation, stating that he was “still committed” to the operation.

“20% fake accounts and spam is 4 times more than Twitter claims, but the real number could be *much* higher,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday.


Since the takeover bid, which was accepted by the social network’s board, Mr. Musk has pledged to rid Twitter of spam, improve user authentication, and increase transparency.

On Friday, he said his team would randomly select 100 followers from the official Twitter account to make sure they were real accounts.

“I suggest others do the same and see what they find,” he suggested, before urging platform users to pick any account with a significant following.

According to an estimate released on Friday by software company SparkToro, 19.42% of Twitter accounts are fake or spam.

SparkToro uses various criteria to evaluate the authenticity of an account, including activity in the last 120 days, creation date, number of tweets, or number of followers.

The company acknowledges that its methodology is likely different from that used by Twitter. According to a tool she offers on her website, more than 70% of Mr. Musk’s followers are fake accounts.

Contacting AFP, Twitter did not immediately respond to the quirky entrepreneur’s latest prediction.

The group’s shares fell about 1% in electronic trading ahead of the Wall Street opening.

According to Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities, Mr Musk’s new tweet will put pressure on the company’s share price “because the likelihood of a deal going through is not very high right now and in our view the likelihood that Mr Musk fall, is more than 60%. get out of the deal and pay severance pay.”

Another possibility, according to Mr. Ives, is that the Tesla boss is trying to negotiate a discount on his purchase price using the fake account argument as a pretext.

“To us, this seems more like an excuse for a dog who ate his homework to refuse a deal or lower the price,” the analyst notes.

For its part, Twitter urged its shareholders to vote for the takeover by Mr. Musk at $54.20 per share in cash at an upcoming special general meeting in a document filed Tuesday with the Wall Street regulator. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).


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