A few days after Elon Musk announced that his deal to buy Twitter is “on hold” because of concern about spam and bots on the platform, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted a thread about how the company tries to fight spam. Musk immediately responded publicly: 💩.
The exchange follows tweets from Musk last week that took issue with the company's own estimate that spam accounts make up fewer than 5 percent of accounts on the platform. Besides nebulous allusions to "free speech," reigning in spam on Twitter has been one of Musk's main talking points regarding the planned acquisition.
“Let me state the obvious: Spam harms the experience for real people on Twitter, and therefore can harm our business. As such, we are strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can, every single day. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just wrong,” Agrawal tweeted. “We suspend over half a million spam accounts every day, usually before any of you even see them on Twitter. We also lock millions of accounts each week that we suspect may be spam. The hard challenge is that many accounts which look fake superficially – are actually real people. And some of the spam accounts which are actually the most dangerous – and cause the most harm to our users – can look totally legitimate on the surface.”
Agrawal went on to reiterate that the company believes fewer than 5 percent of accounts are "spam," but said that an analysis of its userbase couldn't be conducted externally because Twitter doesn't make all of the needed data public.
Musk, who apparently has no other way of contacting Agrawal, responded to his thread with a 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."
Musk has spent much of the last few days either trying to walk back his promise to spend $44 billion on Twitter or, as some observers have speculated, perhaps trying to drive down the ultimate price he'll have to pay for it despite claiming that the supposedly rampant spam problem on the site was one of his main reasons for buying it. After the announcement that the deal was "on hold," Twitter's stock sank.
"Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users," Musk tweeted Friday. "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 …"
Musk also tweeted on Saturday that apparently revealing Twitter's sample size was just 100 users was a violation of a non-disclosure agreement, which he says Twitter's lawyers called him out on in a phone call.
Musk tweeted that "the bots are angry at being counted" and tweeted that "you are being manipulated by the [Twitter timeline] algorithm in ways you don’t realize."