These tweets could cost Elon Musk dearly
Twitter is suing Elon Musk after canceling a plan to buy the company. The complaint refers to a series of provocative tweets by the billionaire.
The Musk/Twitter thing could be just getting started. After the businessman put an end to his plan to take over the social network, the latter decided to sue him. Believing that it was destabilized by this aborted acquisition, the company saw its stock price plummet for several weeks. Twitter’s complaint against Elon Musk relates to a series of tweets the latter posted that were deemed problematic or defamatory of the company. Billions of dollars in damages are at stake.
Elon Musk cites the problem of fake accounts, often hidden by bots, on Twitter to justify his withdrawal. This topic is the only item that Musk is promoting today. He believes that Twitter is not being transparent about the proportion of these fake accounts that are hurting the user experience. From a financial point of view, these fake accounts are an important issue: social networks are rewarded by advertising shown to real users. The fake accounts that are included in the statistics of the number of users reported to investors are therefore all accounts that cannot actually make money.
Defeat the bots or die
In its complaint (available here), Twitter wants to show that the issue of fake accounts was only an excuse used by Elon Musk to withdraw, and that the latter actually wanted to cancel the contract due to a sharp decline in financial markets. and in the Tesla fund, on which his fortune directly depends.
Twitter intends to show that the businessman took full measure before posing this question. The company cites Elon Musk’s April 21 tweet, days before the deal was signed (April 25, 2022), in which he publicly raises the issue of fake accounts.
“If our proposal is successful, we will defeat spam and bots (robots used to manage fake accounts). editor’s note), or die working!”, Elon Musk promised.
The document refers to another message, this time published on May 13, in which Elon Musk announced that he was “pausing” his takeover project. According to Twitter, an announcement made without any prior consultation. The tweet cites the 5% fake accounts figure, a public estimate shared by Twitter, but it’s nothing new: it’s been in all company documents for eight years.
“Twitter takeover temporarily suspended due to estimated details of fake accounts representing less than 5% of users,” Elon Musk writes.
100 user examples
The complaint refers to a message published on May 13 (May 14 France time) in which Elon Musk announced that he wanted to estimate the number of fake accounts on Twitter based on a sample of 100 users. A figure that may seem ironic and vague, he nevertheless presents as an example of what the platform uses to perform its calculations.
“I used a sample of 100 users because that’s what Twitter uses to calculate the 5% rate of fake accounts,” Elon Musk said.
For Twitter, this message corresponds to a “misrepresentation” of the methodology used to determine the percentage of fake accounts. The company asserts in its complaint that it had a two-hour meeting with Elon Musk (prior to the publication of the tweet) during which it was explained to him that the 5% figure was actually calculated by hand from about 9,000 samples. accounts, quarterly.
The complaint also echoes Elon Musk’s mockery of Twitter chief Parag Agrawal’s details. On May 16, the latter actually explained in detail the methodology used on the platform and the data analyzed to determine whether the account really belongs to a person (phone number, geolocation, behavior, etc.). An attempt at explanation, to which the American billionaire responded with a simple emoji representing poo.
If this humorous feature can be seen as an anecdote, it is characterized by the company as “unpleasant” and it reminds us that the contract signed between the two parties commits them not to defame them in any way.
A “no-price” arrangement that was also breached on May 17, when Elon Musk’s US stockbroker invited the SEC to investigate the 5% figure regularly floated by Twitter.
“Hello SEC. Is anyone here?” Elon Musk quips in response to a survey he released about the low percentage of fake accounts promoted by Twitter and urges internet users to mock the platform.
In its complaint, Twitter says that despite these provocations, the company continued to respond to “increasingly unreasonable” requests from Elon Musk’s teams between May 16 and 20, 2022.
Therefore, this approach was not enough to convince the billionaire to spend $44 billion to own the social network and avoid what could be one of the most high-profile trials in Silicon Valley.