Business

Elon Musk says deal can’t ‘move forward’ until Twitter proves bot numbers

The Tesla CEO said he thought the proportion of bots is higher than what Twitter has announced.

The logo for Twitter appears above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 2021. Richard Drew/AP Photo, file


Elon Musk said Tuesday his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter “cannot move forward” until the social media company’s CEO shows proof that less than 5% of the platform’s users are fake.

Musk’s tweet comes a day after he said he might try to renegotiate for less and accused Twitter of potentially misleading him about the percentage of fake accounts on the website, in the clearest signal yet that he could seek to exit the deal.

At a conference in Miami on Monday, Musk said a lower price was not “out of the question,” the latest indication that he may be distancing himself from his initial $44 billion offer, which was announced April 25.

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The terms of the deal carry a $1 billion termination fee and his withdrawal could trigger a messy legal battle, some experts have said.

The issue of bots – accounts that often peddle cryptocurrency scams or other schemes – prompted Musk to declare the deal on hold last week.

In a thread on Twitter’s methodology, CEO Parag Agrawal said Monday that the site suspends more than half a million spam accounts daily. He said its estimate of bots is based on reviews, conducted by people quarterly, of thousands of accounts which it counts as active and which are randomly sampled.

But the Tesla chief executive responded to the thread with a poop emoji.

Musk said at Monday’s conference that he thought the proportion of bots is higher than what Twitter has announced.

“It’s a material adverse misstatement if they, in fact, have been vociferously claiming less than 5% of fake or spam accounts but in fact it is four or five times that number,” he said. “This is a big deal.”

The comments appear to refer to a contract clause that could allow him to back out in case of an occurrence that significantly changes the business.

To fund his push to take Twitter private, Musk, who owns a major stake in Tesla, had committed billions of dollars of his net worth, which makes him the richest man in the world according to the Forbes wealth index. More recently, as Tesla and other tech stocks took a hit, he sought more investors to lower his equity commitment in the deal, The Washington Post has reported.

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The tech mogul has said he wants to remove bot accounts after acquiring the company and promote “free speech” on Twitter, a view some employees worry could impact safety policies put in place to protect users online. Musk’s plans include restoring the account of former president Donald Trump, who was banned after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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