Twitter’s chief executive has hit back after Elon Musk put his deal to buy the platform “on hold” over concerns about fake user accounts.
Parag Agrawal said he had “confidence” in the company’s estimates that less than 5% of users are spam.
He said the company suspends more than half a million spam accounts every day, and millions of suspected spam accounts are locked each week if they cannot pass human verification challenges.
He said Twitter uses public and private data, like IP address and geolocation, to check accounts, with random samples reviewed every few months.
“We shared an overview of the estimation process with Elon a week ago and look forward to continuing the conversation with him, and all of you,” he added, in a series of posts on Twitter.
Musk tweeted on Friday that he had temporarily paused his $44bn Twitter takeover until he received more “details “supporting [the] calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users”.
The Tesla chief executive later added: “Still committed to acquisition.”
His comments prompted speculation that he might be trying to renegotiate the price of the deal or back out.
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Musk had said that his team would do their own analysis, expressing doubt about the accuracy of numbers Twitter has reported in its most recent financial filings.
However, Mr Agrawal said it would not be possible for a third party to correctly estimate the figure because there is a “critical need to use both public and private information (which we can’t share)”.
“Externally, it’s not even possible to know which accounts are counted as mDAUs [monetisable daily active users] on any given day,” he added.
Musk’s emoji response
Musk replied with a smelly poop emoji and said: “So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money?
“This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter.”
He gave a thumbs up to a comment by researcher Andrea Stroppa who said: “Parag, I’m surprised that you say that external researchers couldn’t estimate bots. That’s not true.
“As [a] researcher that worked ~9 years on these topics (I’m the author of one of first independent report about twitter bots) I can say that’s possible. BTW: open your data.”
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Twitter shares have fallen below $38, sinking further after Mr Agrawal’s tweets.
They have lost all of their gains since Musk disclosed that he had purchased a 9% stake in the company.
Musk raised further alarm among investors over the weekend as he tweeted about problems with Twitter’s algorithm and other “potential bugs in the code”.