Elon Musk has gained access to the Twitter data he says is needed to complete his $44 billion acquisition. Data scientists and experts, however, doubt that the available information provides the conclusive answers that Musk seeks about the number of fake accounts on the platform.
After some legal back-and-forth between the two sides, Twitter in recent weeks has provided Musk with historical tweet data and access to its so-called “fire hose” of tweets, people familiar with the matter said. This engine shows the flurry of all tweets in near real-time. People post hundreds of millions of times a day on the platform, according to the company.
Musk’s access to this data could ease the path to completion of the purchase. He said the deal wouldn’t proceed unless he could look at that data to assess the company’s claims about how many of its users are spam or fake accounts. Twitter has long estimated that spam or fake accounts make up less than 5% of its monetizable daily active users, which more recently were estimated at 229 million. Musk said he believed the number could be closer to 20%.
Given the nature of the data provided, it will be difficult for anyone to come to clear conclusions in a short period of time that prove whether Twitter’s own estimates for fake and spam accounts are accurate, say data analysts and social media experts. Because Twitter has a unique protocol on how it determines such accounts, any other estimates are also difficult to compare.
The so-called “fire hose” is “just a string of public tweets” that contains such a large amount of finite data that it’s not practical to parse it for spam, said the social media company’s advisor on trust and security issues, Micah Schaffer who previously worked on YouTube and Snap. Making it available to Musk is “more of a shut up and go thing than a big concession,” he said.
People familiar with the matter say that Twitter guided Musk in his process of calculating monetizable daily users.