In a call with CEOs on Thursday, Twitter stated that it eliminates 1 million spam accounts everyday as part of its dispute with Elon Musk about ‘spam bots’. The company’s phoney and bot accounts were also discussed. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has threatened to pull out of the arrangement if Twitter cannot establish that less than 5% of its daily active users are automated spam accounts. Musk says, without offering any evidence, that Twitter vastly underestimated the number of these ‘spam bots’—automated accounts that commonly propagate incorrect information and participate in fraudulent conduct.
During the call, Twitter indicated that spam accounts account for much less than 5% of its active user base each quarter. Twitter stated it checks ‘thousands of accounts’ at random, utilising both public and private data to assess whether an account is authentic, including IP addresses, phone numbers, geolocation, and how the account behaves when it is active, to determine how many accounts are harmful spam. IP addresses, phone numbers, and location are examples of private data that is not accessible to the general public and is not included in the data ‘firehose’ sent to Musk. According to Twitter, this sensitive information helps prevent legitimate accounts from being labelled as spam.
For years, phoney social media accounts have been a source of concern. Advertisers base their spending decisions on the quantity of users provided by social media platforms. Spam bots are also used to amplify messages and spread fake information. Throughout the event, Twitter made a point of stating that not all automated accounts are malicious bots. It developed a label for automated accounts last year to designate what the company refers to as ‘good bots’—for example, accounts that provide news, health, or weather updates.
Twitter and its investors are fully aware of the issue with phoney accounts. For years, the corporation has presented its best forecasts to the US Securities and Exchange Commission while also expressing worry that its estimate may be overstated. According to many reports at the time, Twitter allegedly granted Musk access to its ‘firehose’ of raw data on hundreds of millions of daily messages, though neither the company nor Musk confirmed this.