Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced on Friday that his $44 billion offer to take over Twitter is “temporarily on hold,” prompting some media outlets to speculate whether the billionaire is considering withdrawing his offer.
“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk tweeted on Friday morning.
The announcement prompted Twitter’s stock to drop by over 25% to $33.79 soon after the tweet, close to half of the $54.20 price offered under Musk’s deal. The figure was 11% lower than closing on Thursday night.
What’s the Problem?
As part of Musk’s pitch to take over and improve Twitter, the Tesla CEO said that he would work to remove spam bots from the platform completely. Musk previously called spam boys the “single most annoying problem” on Twitter, referencing the Twitter accounts run by computers that spam links to users.
Twitter bots are commonly used by scammers to encourage users to click links that lead people to scam websites or install malicious software on users’ computers. Bot accounts may also function as a real accounts by liking, following, and retweeting accounts.
In Musk’s short statement he revealed that the deal was only temporarily on hold as Twitter compiled information to support a calculation given to him at the beginning of the acquisition process that suggests only 5% of Twitter users are bots. The comment seems to indicate that Musk has reason to believe that the number is not correct, or that it may be higher than the stated 5%.
If that’s the case, workers at Twitter are likely now in the process of obtaining internal data to back up their 5% figure.
“Still Committed to Acquisition”
While some outlets speculated whether Musk was backing out of his proposed deal with Twitter, Musk’s own comments just hours after his Friday morning post prove them wrong.
“Still committed to acquisition,” Musk said on Twitter.
Despite Musk’s insistence that he is still committed to the deal, however, some still believe that the chances the deal closes are slimmer than they were before he commented.
Dan Ives, an analyst from Wedbush Securities, said that Musk’s tweet was part of a “Twitter circus show” and indicates that the deal is “likely falling apart” or that he is “negotiating for a lower price.” Ives also predicted that the chance of the deal closing at this stage is less than 50%.
Gizmodo, a technology website with progressive political leanings, argued that Musk’s statement surprised nobody and implied that Musk should have been aware of the spam accounts in the first place.
“Furthermore, it’s not as if Musk wasn’t aware of the spam accounts on the platform,” Jody Serrano wrote, seemingly missing the point that Musk wants to know the exact percentage of Twitter’s userbase is made up of fake accounts.
Musk said that his team is experimenting by collecting a random sample of 100 Twitter users and determining how many are real users in tweets published on Friday evening.
“I invite others to repeat the same process and see what they discover,” he said. The tweet gathered tens of thousands of interactions within less than one hour.
When asked by a finance-focused Twitter account why he didn’t think about the issue before offering $44 billion to buy the company, Musk also appeared to express doubt in the legitimacy of Twitter’s public filings.
“I relied upon the accuracy of Twitter’s public filings,” he said.
Musk has not confirmed when he believes this information will be made available to him.
Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.