‘Sure Sounds Higher Than 5%’: Elon Musk Quips As Report Says That 80% Of Twitter Accounts Are Fake

Expert claims as many as 80% of Twitter accounts are fake. Musk had cited Twitter underestimating bots as reason to cancel deal.
Patrick Pleul/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

Elon Musk, who filed to cancel his agreement to buy Twitter in July after saying Twitter minimized the number of fake accounts on its platform, reacted to a report from a former CIA and FBI cyber security specialist who said the number of fake accounts on Twitter is far larger than the company admits.

Dan Woods, global head of cyber security provider F5’s intelligence, where he examines bot traffic, estimated that as many as 80% of Twitter accounts are fake.

Musk has cited the vast presence of Twitter bots as a reason for backing out of his purchase of Twitter and asserted that Twitter’s claim that less than 5% of its accounts were fake was false. Musk has also stated Twitter “failed or refused to provide” further information about spam bots.

“Sure sounds higher than 5%!” Musk tweeted in response to Woods’ estimate.

He quipped, “On a $/bot basis, this deal is awesome.”

In his July filing, Musk charged, “Sometimes Twitter has ignored Mr. Musk’s requests, sometimes it has rejected them for reasons that appear to be unjustified, and sometimes it has claimed to comply while giving Mr. Musk incomplete or unusable information.”

Musk’s attorneys have subpoenaed Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko, the company’s former security chief, who alleged that Twitter had intentionally minimized its estimate of the number of bots using the platform.

On August 6, Musk challenged Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal on Twitter, snapping, “I hereby challenge @paraga to a public debate about the Twitter bot percentage. Let him prove to the public that Twitter has <5% fake or spam daily users!”

Woods told The Australian that he created a fake Twitter account with which he bought over 100,000 fake Twitter followers.

“I’m not a programmer, but I watched YouTube and in a weekend I wrote a script that automatically creates accounts on Twitter without encountering any obstacles,” he explained. “There’s huge demand [for bots], there’s a marketplace to serve that demand and if I can write a bot that creates accounts on Twitter, and I’m not even a programmer, imagine what a sophisticated programmer could do. Twitter doesn’t want (its number of bots) to be that high, so they’re going through the motions of cancelling some accounts.”

“I’m not saying they’re lying,” he added. “but we’ve really studied these accounts and we’ve come to the conclusion that there are a lot more fake accounts than Twitter is letting on.”

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