Twitter CEO and Elon Musk clash over number of bots

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal pushes back against Elon Musk’s concerns about spam and bots on the platform, saying Musk suggestion measuring the problem by randomly sampling 100 accounts would not work. “Our actual internal estimates for the last four quarters were all well below 5%,” Agrawal wrote on Twitter today. His defense comes after Musk suddenly cast doubt on his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter by tweeting that the deal was “temporarily on hold” due to spam concerns.

According to Musk, the suspension was put in place pending details to back up the service’s estimate that less than 5% of its measured daily active users are bots or spam accounts. Specifically who needed to be convinced, and why, was unclear, and the company’s stock price plunged amid the confusion.

Although Musk did not share further on the status of the deal beyond tweeting that he is “still engaged” at the acquisition, Agrawal went on to say, “We shared an overview of the estimation process with Elon a week ago and we look forward to continuing the conversation with him and all of you.” He mentioned the company doesn’t believe any estimates can be made externally, because even understanding which accounts Twitter counts in its monthly daily active users report requires private information.

Musk answer to Agrawal’s tweet was a single emoji.

Among the reasons Agrawal says monitoring spam and bot activity is so difficult is that many accounts run by real people “look superficially fake.” One thing his thread didn’t mention, however, is that just a month ago, for the second time in its history, Twitter admitted that it had been overstating active users for years.

Musk explained in more detail why this estimate is important, saying, “So how do advertisers know what they are getting for their money? This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter. Elon, in particular, reportedly told investors he wanted to change Twitter so that it didn’t depend on advertising money for most of its revenue and instead got more revenue from subscriptions.

Speculation following Musk’s tweet on Friday morning ran wild, with some suggesting his goal was to get the deal at a lower price or perhaps try to find a way to walk away from it altogether with a fee. $1 billion break. Whatever the heist and the ultimate goal, Agrawal – who fired two top executives the day before Musk’s startling tweet and said “we have to be prepared for all scenarios” – seems ready to back the numbers reported by the company.

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