Tesla CEO Elon Musk sent Twitter shares tumbling on Friday when he said he was going to put his $44 billion acquisition of the social network “on hold” while he researches the proportion of fake and spam accounts on the platform.
Though Musk later clarified that he remains committed to the deal, he continued to hammer on the issue of fake accounts. He wrote, on Twitter, that his team would do their own analysis and expressed doubt about the accuracy of numbers Twitter has reported in its most recent financial filings.
In its first-quarter earnings report this year, Twitter acknowledged there are a number of “false or spam accounts” on its platform, alongside legitimate monetizable daily active usage or users (mDAU). The company reported, “We have performed an internal review of a sample of accounts and estimate that the average of false or spam accounts during the first quarter of 2022 represented fewer than 5% of our mDAU during the quarter.”
Twitter also admitted to overstating user numbers by 1.4 million to 1.9 million users over the past 3 years. The company wrote, “In March of 2019, we launched a feature that allowed people to link multiple separate accounts together in order to conveniently switch between accounts,” Twitter disclosed. “An error was made at that time, such that actions taken via the primary account resulted in all linked accounts being counted as mDAU.”
While Musk may be justifiably curious, experts in social media, disinformation and statistical analysis say that his suggested approach to further analysis is woefully deficient.
Here’s what the SpaceX and Tesla CEO said he would do to determine how many spam, fake and duplicate accounts exist on Twitter:
“To find out, my team will do a random sample of 100 followers of @twitter. I invite others to repeat the same process and see what they discover.” He clarified his methodology in subsequent tweets, adding: “Pick any account with a lot of followers,” and “Ignore first 1000 followers, then pick…
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