Twitter said in regulatory filings that the number of bot accounts on its platform was less than 5 percent of the total. But Musk said he suspects the number is much higher. If he can prove that Twitter’s data is inaccurate, Musk could back out of the deal or lower the price.
While many outsiders expect the figure to be higher than 5%, their assessment methods vary. Andrea Stroppa, a former data consultant at the World Economic Forum (WEF) and a veteran of online counterfeiting, estimates that bot accounts have accounted for about 10 percent of Twitter’s global users over the past nine years.
Stropa also said that for certain topics, such as cryptocurrencies, the percentage could be as high as 20 percent. For accounts engaged in certain “conspiracy theories”, this proportion may exceed 30%.
Meanwhile, research firm Bot Sentinel estimates that 10 to 15 percent of accounts on Twitter are “unauthentic.” This includes fakes, spammers, scammers, evil bots, duplicates, and single-purpose hate accounts. These fake accounts are more likely to tweet about politics, cryptocurrencies, climate change and Covid-19.
Another research firm, Cyabra, estimates that 13.7 percent of Twitter accounts are inauthentic.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk wants to change his mind?
Musk said earlier this week that fake accounts account for at least 20 percent of Twitter users, and possibly as high as 80 to 90 percent, and the exact numbers are as unknowable as the human soul. On Thursday, he also posted a meme on Twitter, jokingly suggesting that Twitter is “full of bots.”
But UC Berkeley law professor Adam Badawi thinks it may be difficult to use the issue to get out of the Twitter deal.
“To do this, he would need to demonstrate that the gap between the true number of bot accounts and the numbers disclosed by Twitter in SEC filings was ‘materially negative,'” he said. level. To be precise, he may have to prove that more than half of Twitter’s users are fake.”
Musk agreed last month to buy Twitter for $44 billion and take it private. Musk then showed signs of wavering as he sought to raise money for the deal. He said last week that the deal would be put on hold until he had more information on the bot account ratio.
Earlier this week, Musk said at a tech conference in Miami that a viable deal at a lower price was not out of the question. That has sparked speculation that he may seek to renegotiate, but so far the deal has not been formally shelved or renegotiated, and Musk is still sticking to his contractual commitments.
Musk probably has a different experience with bot accounts on Twitter than most people. Those who designed bot accounts would program these fake accounts to follow popular users on Twitter and blend in to look more human. And Musk, who has 94 million followers, probably attracts a higher percentage of bots than most users. Before, there have been digital cryptocurrency scams that faked Musk’s account.
In other words, bot accounts are indeed a bigger problem for Twitter than other platforms, Stropa said. “Twitter’s bot detection software is much weaker than other social media,” he said.
Long delay in court?
In fact, bot accounts don’t violate Twitter’s rules either. Some of these accounts are hilarious, and some are valuable in other ways, such as automatically tweeting about earthquake magnitudes.
Of course, with hot issues such as the outbreak, the proportion of automated activities tends to be higher. Between January and June 2020, Carnegie Mellon University researchers collected more than 200 million tweets discussing the outbreak. They found that of the 50 most influential accounts retweeting relevant content, 82 percent were bots. Of the top 1,000 retweeters, 62% were bots.
But overall, the exact proportion of bot accounts is almost unknown, and it’s not even clear what it is made of. “I suspect this issue will drag on in court,” said Duke professor Chris Bail. “Because rational people may be divided on ‘what’s a robot and what’s not.'”