But he still didn’t appear very enthusiastic about buying the social media giant, even with a reduced price.
Musk reached a deal last month to buy Twitter for $44 billion but has recently been grumbling about the company, which has hurt its value.
He put the deal on “hold” last Friday after speculating that bots and spam may make up more than the company’s claim of less than 5% of the operation’s accounts.
The criticism, and Musk’s apparent balkiness about the deal, sent Twitter stocks down that day as much as 25% — a convenient situation for someone seeking a purchase deal.
The Tesla CEO mocked Twitter account figures in a remote interview at the All-Summit tech conference in Miami on Monday, quipping that the number of bots is “as unknowable as the human soul, basically.”
He called it “beyond reasonable for Twitter to claim that ... the number of real, unique humans [on the social media platform] is above 95%.” He smirked: “There’s a bridge I’d like to sell ya.”
He estimated, based on his theory about ratios of popular tweets to number of users, that spam and bots make up at least 20% of Twitter accounts. But Musk also speculated that bots could constitute “potentially 80% or 90%” of accounts, which is critical to know for advertising, he noted.
In response to a question, he said that reducing the purchase price wouldn’t be “out of the question” in light of the bot concerns, but he didn’t appear enthusiastic even in that case. “The more questions I ask, the more my concerns grow. At the end of the day, it has to be fixable.”
“It really depends on a lot of factors here,” he said. “I’m still waiting for some sort of logical explanation for the number of sort of fake or spam accounts on Twitter. And Twitter is refusing to tell us. This seems like a strange thing.”
He also accused Twitter of having a “far left bias.”
(Check out his full remarks below:)
Also Monday, Musk responded with a poop emoji when Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal explained in a detailed Twitter thread about how the company ascertains fake users.
Twitter shares fell 8.2% at the close of trading Monday in New York, Bloomberg reported.
Twitter has declined to comment on Musk’s latest remarks.
Bloomberg columnist Matt Levine last week raised concerns about market manipulation and securities fraud in the Twitter purchase in light of Musk’s very public criticisms on his massive social media platform of a company he agreed to buy.
When buying a company, “you are not supposed to say things that aren’t true and that will affect the stock of a public company that you are trying to buy,” Levine noted. “That is what is usually called ‘securities fraud,’ or what I sometimes like to call ‘lite securities fraud.’ Musk has a long history of lite securities fraud.”
Musk settled a fraud lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 because he tweeted that he had secured funding to take Tesla private but hadn’t. He tried in vain to wriggle out of the settlement last month.
He’s currently being sued for securities fraud by Twitter shareholders because he missed the legally required deadline by 10 days to declare that his stake in the company had risen to 5%. By keeping that information hidden, he was able to continue to buy stock without an uptick in prices triggered by his interest, saving $143 million, according to the suit.
The SEC is now also looking into that, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.
Former SEC Chair Harvey Pitt told Yahoo Finance on Monday that Musk can walk away from the Twitter deal, though it will cost him at least $1 billion as spelled out in the contract. In addition, he would “probably be sued left and right by shareholders if he does that.”