Elon Musk declared he won’t proceed with his $44 billion takeover of Twitter Inc. unless the social media giant can prove bots make up fewer than 5% of its users, casting yet more uncertainty over the deal.
The billionaire tweeted “this deal cannot move forward” unless Twitter provides proof of its claims, reiterating his own view that the ratio is far higher.
Musk’s latest online pronouncement complicates an already chaotic takeover, potentially one of the largest acquisitions the internet industry has ever seen. He recently butted heads online with Twitter chief Parag Agrawal over the way the social media giant accounts for bots, stoking speculation Musk may try to lower the price or even walk away.
Twitter’s shares fall another 3.2% in pre-market trading in New York, after sliding more than 8% the previous day.
Musk told a tech conference in Miami that fake users make up at least 20% of all Twitter accounts, possibly as high as 90%. Twitter regularly states in its quarterly results that the average of false or spam accounts “represented fewer than 5% of our monthly daily active users during the quarter,” adding that it applied “significant judgment” to its estimate, and the true number could be higher.
Musk encouraged Twitter users to run their own tests for bots, crowd-sourcing the effort to calculate whether they made up less than 5% of the service. Responding to Musk’s assertions, Agrawal posted a long thread laying out his company’s methodology. Musk replied by first asking why Twitter doesn’t just call users to verify their identity — and then by posting a poop emoji.
The latest barrage of tweets from the world’s richest person is yet another twist in Musk’s attempted takeover of the micro-blogging site. A prolific user with over 90 million followers, he revealed a stake of more than 9% in the company last month, then launched an unsolicited takeover offer — without detailed financing plans — all within a matter of weeks.
Musk caused the potential cracks in the deal to widen last week when he tweeted that his offer to buy Twitter was “temporarily on hold” until he gets more information about the proportion of fake accounts. Roughly two hours later, Musk claimed in another tweet that he was “still committed” to the deal.