What is known about Elon Musk’s suspicion of stopping the purchase of Twitter

Elon Musk, the richest person on the planet, announced at the end of April the purchase of Twitter for just over 41,000 million euros. Less than 3 weeks later, the tycoon warned on his own social network that he was paralyzing the operation until he knew some very specific data.

What Musk wants to know is whether the number of fake and automated accounts on the platform is indeed less than 5% of the total, a figure that the company itself announced in its annual report to regulators. In fact, half of Musk’s own Twitter followers would be fake.

Everything Musk thinks Twitter should be has worried countless people: from users of the platform to high-ranking politicians in the European Union or employees of the social network itself. His singular conception of freedom of expression opens the door to more lax moderation policies, as Musk understands that Twitter suffers from a progressive bias.

Elon Musk temporarily suspends the purchase of Twitter until it is verified that the false accounts are less than 5% of the platform’s users

Those concerns could be left on a dead letter, since the purchase operation is paralyzed -the regulators, in fact, had not ruled on it yet-. And, despite everything, the suspicions of the founding tycoon of companies like Tesla or SpaceX are well founded.

Although Twitter acknowledged that just under 5% of the platform’s accounts are fake or automated, independent researchers raise this figure to at least triple.

In fact, among Musk’s immediate plans for the platform is, in addition to temporarily delisting it from the stock market, authenticating all human beings and much more forcefully combating the existence of these types of accounts that are sometimes useful for spreading false news or generate online fraud.

According to the agency Reutersalthough the paralysis of the purchase of Twitter by Musk can be reduced to a simple tactic of the tycoon, many independent researchers of the social network abound that this type of account could be as many as 9% or 15% of the community overall number of service users.

Although Twitter initially said that only 5% of accounts would be fraudulent, false or automated, the truth is that the first problem in trying to quantify this phenomenon is the fact that there is no standard definition about what any of these accounts are. This explains it Reuters in an article for which Twitter has preferred not to comment.

For example, Twitter, in its terms of conditions, authorizes the existence of anonymous accounts as long as their moderation policies do not determine that they are accounts prepared to spread false news, propaganda, disinformation or fraud. Many of those anonymous or automated accounts are parody accounts, for example.

Research from 2017, as well as somewhat more recent studies, put this phenomenon of anonymous, fake or automated accounts at up to 15%. Dan Brahmy, CEO of an Israeli technology company called Cyabra, a firm that uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect fake accounts, believes that the platform itself “has underestimated the figures.”

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For Cyabra, for example, those fake accounts that Musk wants to go after would represent 13.7% of the Twitter user community. At the same time, Reuters remember that the phenomenon began to be discussed after Russia was singled out for interfering in the 2016 US presidential election, in which Donald Trump arrived at the White House.

The agency in fact recalls that Meta, owner of platforms such as Facebook, estimates the existence of false, anonymous and fraudulent accounts also at 5% of the total of its community. She also believes that 11% are duplicate accountssince some users manage several profiles, a practice that is much more accepted on Twitter.

However, beyond the conclusions reached by Musk himself, it is fair to remember that Twitter has made investments to try to put an end to the phenomenon of Twitter accounts. spam. In 2018 she bought Smyte, a firm specializing in the prevention of spam. In July 2018, she made a cleaning which meant the reduction of one million people from its user base.

The phenomenon of fake accounts and bots worries many experts in technology platforms and public speeches. Filippo Menczer is a researcher at the Indiana University Observatory (USA) and also stands out in statements to Reutersthat today manipulation has become a “much more sophisticated” tool.

Although their number is as small as the platform itself claims, their impacts are still wide-ranging and serious. A study of Carnegie Mellon University determined that, of the hoaxes about COVID-19 that were spread on the platform during 2020, of its top 50 broadcasters, 82% of the accounts were bots.

To conclude this perfect storm that has put the purchase of Twitter in the eye of the hurricane, another detail: the organizational problems of the owner of the social network have complicated her ability to detect false and automated accounts for years, Reuters.

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