Elon Musk Says Deal ‘Cannot Move Forward’ Until Twitter Proves Number of Spam Bots, Fake Accounts

Musk says the percentage of fake users could be as high as 20% – or more

Elon Musk
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 02: Elon Musk attends The 2022 Met Gala Celebrating "In America: An Anthology of Fashion" at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Elon Musk now says his $44 billion offer to buy Twitter “cannot go forward” until the company can “prove” that only 5% of its user base is bots and fake accounts as it claims – something the social media platform’s CEO has already declined to do publicly.

Musk was unequivocal in an early Tuesday tweet reply that until Twitter can square its user-base numbers with what’s in its SEC filings, there’ll be no deal.

“20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher,” Musk tweeted. “My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

Defeating bots and fake accounts is high on Musk’s priority list for Twitter, right behind opening up the platform to points of view outside its internal political bent without censorship.

But with Musk’s latest bout of cold feet, his Twitter takeover bid has truly become a game of cat-and-mouse, and it’s no longer obvious who’s pursuing whom. Musk’s initial offer was met with fierce resistance from inside Twitter – including a poison pill provision to avoid a buyout – before it was welcomed with open arms by the board.

The discovery period, however, seems to have turned the tables, as Musk seems less satisfied with his potential purchase the more he kicks the tires.

On Monday, standing Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted that Twitter’s fake-account estimates – which he believes are well under 5% – are based in part on “private” information that can’t be shared externally.

In other words, he said Musk would just have to take their word for it.

Musk’s response: A … poop emoji.

Musk would have a mighty legal and financial tangle on his hands were he to try to back out now, with as much as $1 billion or more in break-up fees or more on the line.

Whether Musk is trying to back out, negotiate a better deal, or is just rattling Twitter’s cage (something he now appears to do for sport) isn’t clear – maybe not even to him.