it’s these tweets that could cost Elon Musk a fortune
Twitter sued Elon Musk, canceling his plan to buy the company. The complaint refers to a series of provocative tweets from the billionaire.
The Musk/Twitter case may be just beginning. After the businessman finished his plan to take over the social network, the latter decided to sue him. The company, believed to have been destabilized by this aborted takeover, saw its share price drop for several weeks. Twitter’s complaint against Elon Musk refers to a series of tweets published by the latter, which were deemed problematic or denigrating the company. Billions of dollars in damages are at stake.
To justify his withdrawal, Elon Musk raised the problem of fake Twitter accounts, where robots often hide. This topic is now the only element presented by Musk. He believes that Twitter is not transparent about the proportion of these fake accounts, which harms the user experience. Financially, these fake accounts represent an important issue: social networks are paid by advertising shown to real users. Fake accounts, which are included in the statistics of the number of users informed to investors, are all accounts that are not really profitable.
Defeat the bots or die
In its complaint (accessible here), Twitter aims to show that the issue of fake accounts was just an excuse used by Elon Musk to withdraw, and that the latter was in fact seeking to cancel the agreement due to sharp fall in financial markets. and on Tesla stock, on which his fate directly depends.
Twitter aims to show that the entrepreneur has fully taken the measure of this question before committing. The company quoted a tweet from Elon Musk dated April 21, a few days before the signing of the agreement (April 25, 2022), in which he clearly raised the issue of fake accounts.
“If our offer is successful, we will defeat spam and bots (robots used to drive fake accounts, editor’s note), or die trying!”, promised Elon Musk.
Redemption is suspended
The document mentions another message, this time published on May 13, in which Elon Musk announced that he was “pausing” his acquisition project. An announcement that, according to Twitter, was made without any prior consultation. The tweet refers to the number of 5% fake accounts, a public estimate shared by Twitter, which however is nothing new: it has been in all the company’s documents for eight years.
“Twitter acquisition is temporarily suspended pending details about the estimate of fake accounts, according to which they represent less than 5% of users”, Elon Musk wrote.
Sample of 100 users
The complaint refers to a message, also published on May 13 (May 14 French time), in which Elon Musk announced that he wanted to assess the number of fake accounts on Twitter based on a sample of 100 users. A figure that may seem provocative and unrepresentable, which he nevertheless presents as a sample that the platform uses to perform its calculations.
“I used a sample of 100 users because that’s what Twitter uses to calculate the 5% ratio of fake accounts,” said Elon Musk.
For Twitter, this message corresponds to “an ugly presentation” of the method used to determine the percentage of fake accounts. The company assures in its complaint that a two-hour meeting was arranged with Elon Musk (before the publication of his tweet), where it was explained to him that this figure of 5% was actually calculated manually from in a sample of about 9,000 accounts, every quarter.
The complaint also alludes to sarcasm from Elon Musk about details from Twitter boss Parag Agrawal. On May 16, the latter platform actually detailed the method used and the data analyzed to determine if the account is indeed held by a person (phone number, geolocation, behavior, etc.). An attempt at an explanation where the American billionaire responded with a simple emoji representing a shit.
If this funny feature seems anecdotal, it is described as “unpleasant” by the company, remembering that the agreement signed between the two parties commits them to avoid any vandalism.
A “non-disparagement” agreement that was also violated on May 17 in the eyes of Twitter, when Elon Musk publicly invited the SEC, the American stock market policeman, to investigate this figure of 5% regularly promoted by Twitter .
“Hello SEC. Is anyone here?” Elon Musk joking in response to a survey he published, ironically about the low percentage of fake accounts promoted by Twitter and calling Internet users to laugh at the platform.
In its complaint, Twitter specified that despite these provocations, the company continued to respond to “increasingly unreasonable” requests from Elon Musk’s teams between May 16 and 20, 2022.
A strategy that is therefore not enough to convince the billionaire to spend 44 billion dollars to afford the social network and to avoid what could be one of the most vivid tests in Silicon Valley.