In the middle of a complicated legal dispute over a $44 billion acquisition, billionaire Elon Musk angered Twitter and challenged the company’s CEO, Parag Agrawal, to a “public debate” over fake accounts and spam bots.
“I hereby challenge @paraga to a public debate regarding the Twitter bot percentage,” Musk posted Saturday morning. Allow him to demonstrate to the public that Twitter has 5% fake or spam everyday users!”
A Twitter thread by cybersecurity expert Andrea Stroppa explaining Musk’s argument against Twitter served as the trigger for his challenge. On Saturday, Musk responded to that threat by asserting he would move forward with his $44 billion proposed acquisition of Twitter if the social media giant would reveal how it detects bots and fake accounts.
“Good summary of the problem. If Twitter simply provides their method of sampling 100 accounts and how they’re confirmed to be real, the deal should proceed on original terms. However, if it turns out that their SEC filings are materially false, then it should not,” Musk said.
Interestingly, Musk conducted a poll on Twitter on the same day where he asked fans about fake accounts on the platform. Musk asked his followers to vote on whether “less than 5% of Twitter daily users are fake/spam.” Respondents to Musk’s informal poll may select one of two answers: “Yes” followed by three robot emojis, or “Lmaooo no.”
Over 8 million users took part in the poll, with 64.9 percent believing Twitter’s claims to be false.
Musk withdrew from his initial $44 billion deal because he believes Twitter failed to share accurate data on spam and bot profiles on the platform. Twitter said that spam profiles constituted barely 5% of daily active users, or approximately 237.8 million.
A Twitter bot is obviously bad since companies or certain people use Twitter’s API to distribute updates, such as game or weather updates. These, however, can be exploited to troll others. Twitter has stated that many accounts are maintained by real people yet look like spam profiles due to their frequent tweeting patterns.