Twitter is suing Elon Musk, who has canceled his plan to buy the company. The complaint refers to a series of provocative tweets from the billionaire.
The Musk/Twitter affair may have just begun. After the businessman put an end to his plan to take over the social network, the latter decided to sue him. The company, which is believed to have been upset by this aborted takeover, has seen its share price plummet within a few weeks. Twitter’s complaint against Elon Musk refers to a series of tweets the latter posted that are problematic or tarnish the company’s reputation. Billions of dollars in damages are at stake.
To justify his withdrawal, Elon Musk raises the problem of fake accounts on Twitter, behind which bots often hide. This topic is today the only element that Musk brought up. He believes that Twitter is not transparent about the percentage of these fake accounts that harm the user experience. In financial terms, these fake accounts present a fundamental problem: social networks are rewarded with advertisements that are shown to real users. Fake accounts, which are included in the statistics of the number of users that are reported to investors, are therefore all accounts that cannot really be monetized.
Defeat the bots or die
Twitter in its complaint (accessed here) seeks to show that the issue of fake accounts is only an excuse used by Elon Musk to withdraw, and that the latter is in fact seeking to cancel the agreement due to the strong decline in financial markets. And in Tesla shares, on which his fortune directly depends.
Twitter intends to show that the entrepreneur has taken full action on 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 (bots used to manage fake accounts, Editor’s note), or you die trying! ‘ Promised Elon Musk.
The document refers to another message published this time on May 13, in which Elon Musk announced that he was “pausing” his acquisition project. An announcement made, according to Twitter, without any prior consultation. The tweet mentions 5% of fake accounts, a general estimate shared by Twitter, but nonetheless not new: it has been in all of the company’s documents for eight years.
Elon Musk wrote: “The acquisition of Twitter is temporarily suspended pending details regarding the estimation of fake accounts, under which they represent less than 5% of users.”
Sample from 100 users
The complaint refers to a letter 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 number that may seem ironic and unrepresentative, which it nonetheless presents as the sample that the platform uses to make its calculations.
“I used a sample of 100 users because that’s what Twitter uses to calculate 5% of fake accounts,” says Elon Musk.
For Twitter, this message corresponds to a “distorted view” of the methodology used to determine the percentage of fake accounts. The company asserts in its complaint that a two-hour meeting was organized with Elon Musk (before his tweet was posted), during which this figure was explained 5% manually calculated from a sample of nearly 9,000 accounts each quarter.
The complaint also reflects a mockery of Elon Musk over details from Twitter chief Parag Agrawal. On May 16, the latter has already detailed the methodology used and the data analyzed on the platform to determine if the account is actually owned by a person (phone number, geolocation, behavior, etc.). Attempting to interpret the response of the American billionaire with a simple emoji representing a tube.
If this humor feature sounds like anecdotal, the company called it “unpleasant”, stating that the agreement signed between the two parties obligated them to avoid any distortion.
The agreement “not to be taken lightly” was also violated on May 17 in the eyes of Twitter, when Elon Musk publicly called on the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the US stock market policeman, to investigate the 5% figure that Twitter regularly provides.
“Hey SEC. Is anyone here?” Elon Musk, in response to a poll he published, ridiculed the low percentage of fake accounts provided by Twitter and called on Internet users to mock the platform.
In its complaint, Twitter specifies that despite these provocations, the company continued to respond to “increasingly unreasonable” requests from Elon Musk’s teams between May 16 and May 20 2022.
Thus, this approach was not enough to convince the billionaire to spend $44 billion to pay for the social network and to avoid what could be one of the most tumultuous experiences in Silicon Valley.