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Fake accounts return to haunt Twitter as Musk puts acquisition on hold

Fake accounts return to haunt Twitter as Musk puts acquisition on hold
Elon Musk  |  Photo Credit: Reuters
13 May, 2022
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Elon Musk has put his $44 billion bid to acquire Twitter on hold until the microblogging platform can verify that the number of active fake accounts are less than 5% of its total user base. “Twitter deal is temporarily on hold pending details supporting the calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk said in a Twitter post

On May 2, Twitter had said in a filing that fake or spam accounts on the platform were estimated to be less than 5% of its monetisable daily active users in the first quarter.  

Twitter has 329 million users in 2022, according to Statista. Out of which, 229 million users were served advertising in the first quarter. 

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Musk on his part had earlier said that freeing the platform of fake accounts will be one of his top priorities. “If our Twitter bid succeeds, we will defeat the spam bots or die trying,” Musk said in a Twitter post on April 22.  

Fake accounts have been the Achilles’ heel for most social media platforms for years. In the past, Twitter has been manipulated by fake accounts into granting them verification badges, which are typically issued to highlight accounts that are authentic and belong to the person who claims to own them. For instance, in July 2021, Twitter acknowledged having mistakenly approved verification requests made by several fake accounts. The accounts were later suspended under the platform’s manipulation and spam policy. 

In 2018, Twitter had identified and shut down over 9.9 million fake accounts. In June 2018, a Washington Post report had estimated the number of blocked accounts at 70 million, which was refuted by the company’s chief financial officer Ned Segal, in a Twitter post.  

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Among other platforms, in 2020, Facebook made one of its biggest crackdowns on fake accounts. The Meta company said in March 2021 in a blog post that it disabled 1.3 billion fake accounts between October and December 2020. Facebook had close to 2.93 billion monthly active users as of Q1 2022, as per Statista. Facebook claims it blocks millions of fake accounts on a daily basis.  

Musk has been a staunch supporter of free speech on social media and criticised them for taking down posts of blocking accounts even for making problematic statements. After expressing interest in starting his own social network, like the former US President Donald Trump, Musk made a $44 billion bid to acquire Twitter last month. The Twitter board accepted the offer, which is pending regulatory approval and was expected to close sometime this year.