Last Friday, Elon Musk sent the stock of the short message service on a downturn with a tweet: in it, he questioned the planned acquisition of Twitter for $ 44 billion. His suspicion: there could be no real users behind many accounts.
Not only were many investors upset, but Twitter’s lawyers also contacted him as a result, Musk revealed on Sunday night. They had accused him of breaking a confidentiality agreement. From the legal department’s point of view, Musk revealed too much about Twitter’s approach to the investigation of automated tweeting accounts.
According to the official figures from 2014, the short message service estimates the proportion of false or spam accounts to be less than five percent.
On Saturday, Musk released more details on Twitter on how exactly he wants to determine the actual percentage of fake users. According to this, the Tesla BOSS wants to randomly select 100 Twitter accounts and check whether they are fake or bot accounts. However, the number of 100 accounts is statistically considered very low for such a survey. After all, there are 229 million daily active accounts on Twitter.
The fact that Musk nevertheless chose an obviously insufficient number can be understood as a criticism of Twitter’s methodology. Because the short message service itself also uses a test group of this size, Musk stressed. Indirectly, the potential buyer probably wanted to make it clear why he distrusts the official figures of Twitter. The Twitter lawyers, on the other hand, see the confidentiality of the takeover negotiations violated.
Twitter sees a breach of trust
On May 6, Musk visited the Twitter headquarters and, according to the “Wall Street Journal”, also asked questions about the fake and spam accounts. In the past, Twitter had routinely warned that the percentage of fake users was estimated and “the actual number of fake or spam users could be higher than we assume”.
Any random sampling process is fine. If many people independently get similar results for % of fake/spam/duplicate accounts, that will be telling.
I picked 100 as the sample size number, because that is what Twitter uses to calculate <5% fake/spam/duplicate.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2022
For some industry observers, however, the concerns now expressed could be a way for Musk to get out of the agreed billion-dollar deal or at least push the price. Even though Musk stressed a few hours after his first tweet that he was still behind the deal: according to the “Wall Street Journal”, the 50-year-old billionaire only put off this clarifying tweet because his lawyers were pushing for it.
On Sunday, Musk took to his Twitter account and made clear criticism of the platform’s algorithm, which “manipulates” what is displayed to users. In addition, there may be numerous errors in the code, which is why he wants to disclose the source code of the page in order to increase “reliability and efficiency”.
The head of the electric car manufacturer Tesla had agreed with the Twitter board of directors to buy the short message service for $ 44 billion and take Twitter off the stock exchange. However, he is dependent on enough shareholders to cede their shares to him. Twitter and Musk have so far wanted to complete the acquisition by the end of the year. In recent months, Musk had already acquired a stake of a good nine percent in Twitter on the stock exchange.