Elon Musk says Twitter deal ‘cannot move forward’ until CEO proves spam claims

Experts have speculated that Tesla boss is looking to find a way to renegotiate or exit takeover

Elon Musk’s deal to take over Twitter “cannot move forward” unless he receives more information about spam accounts on the platform, he has said.

Mr Musk has said that the deal is “temporarily on hold” until Twitter is able to prove claims in its filings that less than 5 per cent of its active users are spam or fake accounts.

On Monday, in a long thread, Twitter chief executive Parag Agarwal claimed that the company would be unable to provide such proof publicly because it relies on private and internal information.

Initially, Mr Musk replied to that with a turd emoji. He then asked “how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money?”

Now, in new tweets, Mr Musk said that he thought the number could be far higher than Twitter’s claims and that he would not move forward with the deal until more proof had been provided.

“20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher,” he wrote.

“My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate.

“Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%.

“This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

In reply to Mr Musk tweets, a user named Pranay Pathole who regularly sends flattering messages to Mr Musk noted that his post about putting the cocaine back in Coca-Cola had become Twitter’s most liked ever.

He noted that tweet had only been liked by some 2.5 per cent of Twitter’s user base, and Mr Pathole used those numbers to suggest – without showing his working – that “there’s a high possibility that the number of fake/spam/bot accounts could be well over 50%”.

“Exactly,” replied Mr Musk.

Some experts have suggested the billionaire may be looking for ways to try and renegotiate the price of the deal or find a way to walk away from it. Mr Musk’s latest statement was posted in response to a news article suggesting that he could be attempting to get a lower price.

Twitter’s share price remains well below the $54.20 Musk has agreed to pay per share to complete the deal.

According to a report by Bloomberg, Mr Musk told a conference in Miami on Monday that renegotiating a deal for the company at a lower price was not “out of the question”.

Nicky Danino, principal lecturer in computer science at the University of Central Lancashire, said: “Although things are stalling, I’d be surprised if Musk is trying to get out of the deal completely. This may be a negotiation tactic.

“I say this because buying Twitter would greatly increase Musk‘s power.

“In a world where information is one of our most precious commodities, investing in a platform with such a vast bank of knowledge on the human population is a sound business move.”

But social media expert and industry commentator Matt Navarra said he thought Mr Musk could be willing to pay a one billion dollar “breakup fee” included in the deal in order to walk away.

“Elon‘s latest Twitter deal antics should surprise no-one. There are so many reasons why backing out of the deal would be the smartest move for him right now,” he said.

“Forfeiting 1 billion to walk away would be far cheaper than the escalating costs of this deal due to Twitter’s plunging share price and the hammering Tesla’s stock is taking. Twitter is in a very vulnerable position right now, and Elon Musk knows it.

“The tech drama is far from over, the finale is still to come.”

It has been suggested that the Tesla and SpaceX boss’ concern over the number of fake accounts on the site is linked to his plans to try and monetise Twitter’s user base through more advertising and subscriptions.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said these figures are a “key metric” in “establishing an accurate number of real tweeters is considered to be key to future revenue streams”.

On announcing the deal last month, Mr Musk said he wanted “defeat the spam bots” and bolster free speech on the platform.

He also said he wanted to “unlock” the potential of the site and “make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features”.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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