Elon Musk’s wish for more information about Twitter bots could just be granted. Twitter plans to offer its suspected buyer its full “fire hose” or a comprehensive stream of data on tweets, according to a report from the Washington Post.
After the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX agreed to buy Twitter for $44 billion for $44 billion, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX released an extensive, public tantrum in an apparent effort to pull out of the deal. While some theorize that Musk’s cold feet are a result of the macroeconomic downturn, the billionaire mogul has used the issue of automated bot accounts as a possible way out of the deal.
On Monday, Twitter shared a letter from Musk’s legal team in an SEC filing, stating that Musk needed more transparency around “spam and fake accounts” on the service before moving forward with the deal. Twitter estimates bots make up less than 5% of accounts on the site, but “lame duck” CEO Parag Agrawal said he doesn’t think this calculation can be verified externally, as it requires the use of private company data (which is when Musk sent the CEO a poo emoji).
Apparently, Musk is now getting access to this data, which Twitter was initially unwilling to hand over. The “fire hose” contains information about each tweet that is sent, which device it is sent on, and other information about the account.
Under the contract for the $44 billion deal, Musk must go through with the purchase unless he can prove that Twitter cheated him about the company’s true value. If it turns out that Twitter is actually a lot more bumpy than previously believed, that could be one way out of the deal, but Twitter’s revelations are unlikely to be even wrong. The Post reported that at least two dozen companies outside of Twitter are already paying to access this sought-after data, and if there were any major discrepancies, it’s hard to imagine we wouldn’t have gotten wind of it by now.
But UK-based GlobalData released a study this morning claiming that at least 10% of Twitter users could be bots. It’s not clear whether their data came from the “fire hose” or publicly available data (Vidak For Congress asked the company for clarification), but the study analyzed about 4 million tweets from 20,976 unique handles. GlobalData chose these accounts by collecting data from Twitter once every three hours for 22 iterations and then selected a sample size. However, this data can be interpreted in different ways, depending on the definition of spam.
“Incessant tweeting of non-genuine content may be considered spam, but some may see it as a very active user sharing articles/opinions,” explains data scientist Sidharth Kumar. Kumar means that an account that only retweets news articles can be marked as bot, but in practice it could be a real user who just isn’t posting original content.
Since applying to go public in 2013, Twitter has consistently claimed that only about 5% of accounts are spam.