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Elon Musk on Monday fueled speculation he could be seeking to negotiate a lower price for his proposed $44 billion buyout of Twitter, telling a Miami tech conference that an agreement at a lower price wouldn’t be ‘out of the question.’
Musk and Twitter agreed a deal on April 25, but it now appears that Musk could be having second thoughts. On Friday, after weeks of complaining about the company’s operations in a series of tweets, he announced he was putting the deal on hold.
He then tweeted about his surprise to learn that only 5 percent of Twitter accounts were bots or spam, and on Monday responded with a poop emoji to CEO Parag Agrawal’s lengthy thread explaining the problem in trying to detect and eliminate bots.
‘So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money? This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter,’ Musk said.
Journalist Molly Jong-Fast replied: ‘You’re obviously trying to get out of the deal.’
Twitter’s shares fell 8 percent on Monday to close at $37.39 – significantly below the $54.20 a share that Musk agreed to pay last month to buy the social media company.
Musk told the Miami audience that he thought around 20 percent of Twitter accounts were fake.
Elon Musk is seen on Monday addressing the All In podcast conference in Miami
Attendees had paid $7,500 each for tickets to the three-day conference in Florida
He asked rhetorically if the figure could be as high as 90 percent, according to a live-streamed video of his remarks posted by a Twitter user, and obtained by Bloomberg.
‘Currently what I’m being told is that there’s just no way to know the number of bots,’ Musk said at the conference.
‘It’s like, as unknowable as the human soul.’
He reportedly told the audience that the more questions he asked, the more concerned he was growing.
Parag Agrawal, the CEO of Twitter, has defended the company’s policies
Musk spoke at a conference hosted by the All In podcast, run by Chamath Palihapitiya, an entrepreneur and early Facebook executive; Jason Calacanis, an angel investor; David Sacks, former chief operating officer at PayPal, which Musk merged his company with in 1999, and David Friedberg, founder and CEO of The Production Board, a company geared towards solving major problems in the world.
The $7,500-per-person event was sold out, and organizers said journalists were excluded from attending.
Musk appeared at the Miami summit via videoconference.
Over the weekend, Musk tweeted that he planned to do his own analysis of Twitter’s user base by using a random sample of 100 user accounts.
He said that he was then contacted by Twitter’s legal department and accused of breaking their non-disclosure agreement by publicly sharing the company’s methodology.
Agrawal, in response to Musk’s agitation, said on Monday that Twitter manually checks thousands of accounts every quarter to determine how many should be counted as spam.
Agrawal said Twitter ‘shared an overview of the estimation process with Elon a week ago.’
He tweeted that spam ‘harms the experience for real people on Twitter’ and that the company is ‘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.
Musk replied to the CEO’s tweet thread by first asking why Twitter doesn’t just call users to verify their identity – and then by posting a poop emoji.
Analyst Dan Ives said that the changing stock market and the challenge of financing the deal, ‘has caused Musk to get cold feet’ and that the issue of bots is ‘likely more of a scapegoat to push for a lower price.’
Ives argued that no one else is likely to match Musk’s deal, and Musk knows it
‘The elephant in the room for the Twitter board is Musk can walk away for a $1 billion as a small breakup fee (for Musk-all relative) and likely cite the bot/fake account issue as the reason, even though this likely would be contested by Twitter in the courts,’ he said, according to The New York Post.