In a call with executives on Thursday, Twitter claimed that it removes 1 million spam accounts daily as part of its dispute with Elon Musk about “spam bots.” The company’s fake and bot accounts were also discussed.
The CEO of Tesla, who has offered to pay $44 billion to acquire Twitter, has threatened to back out of the deal if Twitter cannot demonstrate that fewer than 5% of its daily active users are automated spam accounts.
Without providing any supporting data, Musk claims that Twitter drastically overestimated the number of these “spam bots”—automated accounts that frequently spread false information and engage in fraudulent activity.
During the call, Twitter stated that spam accounts make up significantly less than 5% of its active user base each quarter. Twitter claimed it reviews “thousands of accounts” picked at random, using both public and private data to evaluate whether an account is legitimate, including IP addresses, phone numbers, geolocation, and how the account behaves when it is active, to determine how many accounts are malicious spam.
IP addresses, phone numbers, and location are examples of private data that isn’t accessible to the general public and isn’t included in the data “firehose” provided to Musk. According to Twitter, this sensitive information helps prevent falsely labelling actual accounts as spam.
For years, fake social media accounts have been a concern. The number of users offered by social media sites is used by advertisers to guide their spending decisions. Additionally, spam bots are employed to magnify communications and disseminate false information. But Twitter made a point of saying that not all automated accounts are bad bots throughout the session. It introduced a badge for automated accounts last year to distinguish what the business refers to as “good bots”—for example, accounts that offer news, health, or weather updates.
Twitter and its investors are well aware of the problem with phoney accounts. For years, the company has provided its best projections to the US Securities and Exchange Commission while also expressing concern that its estimate may be understated. According to numerous stories at the time, Twitter reportedly gave Musk access to its “firehose” of raw data on hundreds of millions of daily tweets, though neither the business nor Musk verified this.
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