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Musk’s dispute with twitter over bots continues to dog deal

Executives from Twitter Inc. tried to better explain how the company calculates the number of spam bot accounts on the service, and reiterated that the number is low, tackling a topic that’s been a hangup for Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk, who has a deal to buy the social network.

Twitter shares gained as much as 3.4% to $39.51 on news about the briefing. The stock dropped 12% this year through Wednesday’s close.

Twitter has repeatedly said that the number of spam bots on the service represent less than 5% of its total user base. Musk, meanwhile, has complained that the number of bots on Twitter is much higher, and has threatened to walk away from his agreement to buy the company for $44 billion until he gets confirmation about Twitter’s bot percentage.

Twitter executives said Thursday in a media briefing that the company manually reviews thousands of accounts each quarter to determine the 5% number, and estimates that the actual number is well below what’s disclosed in filings. The company also uses internal data to confirm the bot number, including things like IP addresses or phone numbers to determine if an account is run by a human.

Musk has demanded an audit of Twitter’s estimates. Twitter reiterated that they are sharing some data with Musk, and working with his team within the confines of the purchase agreement. An executive declined to comment on what data was being shared with Musk, but said that the company does not share internal data with outsiders due to privacy concerns.

Twitter previously gave Musk access to the company’s “fire hose” of public tweets, but that data only includes public tweet data, not private account data.

A Twitter executive cautioned that it would not be possible for an outsider to accurately estimate the number of bots on the service without that data. The executives asked not to be identified by name. Bloomberg

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