Twitter fires back at Elon Musk: 'His story is imagined to escape merger'

The billionaire claims microblogging platform was 'swimming naked' when it came to revealing its true number of bots

Elon Musk's dispute with Twitter over his purchase agreement rumbles on. Reuters
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Twitter has hit back at billionaire Elon Musk after he pulled out of the $44 billion deal to acquire the social media company, claiming he was “hoodwinked”.

“That story is as implausible and contrary to fact as it sounds,” Twitter said in a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing on Thursday.

“And it is just that — a story, imagined in an effort to escape a merger agreement that Mr Musk no longer found attractive once the stock market, and along with it, his massive personal wealth, declined in value.”

Mr Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, agreed to acquire Twitter in April, pledging to pay $54.20 a share. Upon completion of the deal, the plan was for Twitter to be converted into a private company.

However, in July, he filed paperwork to terminate the transaction, and blamed Twitter for breaching the agreement by misrepresenting the number of fake accounts on its platform.

On July 12, Twitter filed a legal challenge accusing Mr Musk of breaching the agreement.

In his counterclaims filed in a Delaware court, Mr Musk said Twitter has been concealing its true number of users, Reuters reported.

“As a long bull market was coming to a close, and the tide was going out, Twitter knew that providing the Musk Parties the information they were requesting would reveal that Twitter had been swimming naked,” the counterclaims filed by Mr Musk say.

He said that while Twitter claimed to have 238 million “monetisable” daily active users, the number of users who actually see adverts was about 65 million lower.

Mr Musk also accused the microblogging site of having played a “months-long game of hide and seek”.

Twitter said Mr Musk did not ask for any verification on the number of false or spam accounts before he entered into the merger agreement, and “forwent all due diligence — giving Twitter 24 hours to accept his take-it-or-leave-it offer before he would present it directly to Twitter's stockholders”.

Twitter bots account for up to 12 per cent of visits on the social media platform, a study by Israeli cyber-security company Cheq revealed, having analysed 5.21 million website visits originating from Twitter.

Twitter said its SEC disclosures about monetisable daily active users were accurate.

“Mr Musk does not identify any false or misleading statement of fact in this disclosure,” Twitter said in its SEC filing on Thursday.

“Instead, he asserts that his own analysis, using a publicly available website, indicates that false or spam accounts constitute at least 10 per cent of Twitter’s monetisable daily active users [mDAU].

“But that claim is untenable on its face, because Mr Musk is not measuring the same thing as Twitter or even using the same data as Twitter.

“Mr Musk can produce a higher estimate only by running a data set neither limited to nor inclusive of mDAU through a generic web tool that designated his own Twitter account a likely 'bot'. The result is a distortion that Mr Musk is hoping will, nonetheless, make waves.”

The case is scheduled to go to trial on October 17.

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Updated: August 05, 2022, 9:17 AM