Twitter said it was deleting 1 million spam accounts every day during a call with executives during a briefing aimed at shedding light on the company’s fake accounts and bot accounts as it wrestled with Elon Musk over “spam bots”.
Tesla CEO, who has offered to buy Twitter for $44 billion, has threatened to walk away from the deal if the company can’t prove that less than 5% of its daily active users are automated spam accounts .
Musk argued, without presenting evidence, that Twitter drastically underestimated the number of such “spam bots” — automated accounts that typically promote scams and misinformation — on its service.
Twitter said on the call that spam accounts make up well under 5% of its active user base each quarter. To calculate how many accounts are malicious spam, Twitter said it examines “thousands of accounts” randomly sampled, using both public and private data such as IP addresses, phone numbers, geolocation and account behavior when active, to determine if an account is real.
Private data, which is not publicly available and therefore not in the data “firehose” given to Musk, includes IP addresses, phone numbers and location. Twitter said this private data helps avoid misidentifying real accounts as spam.
Fake social media accounts have been a problem for years. Advertisers rely on the number of users provided by social media platforms to determine where they will spend money. Spammers are also used to amplify messages and spread misinformation. But Twitter noted in the appeal that not all robo accounts are malicious bots. Last year, it released a label for automated accounts to identify what the company calls “good bots” – such as accounts that send news, health or weather updates, for example.
The problem of fake accounts is well known to Twitter and its investors. The company has disclosed its bot estimates to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for years, while warning that its estimate may be too low.
Last month, Twitter offered Musk access to its “firehose” of raw data on hundreds of millions of daily tweets, according to multiple reports at the time, although neither the company nor Musk confirmed this.