Would-be Twitter buyer Elon Musk has spent weeks now speculating that Twitter is lying about the number of spam and bot users on its platform. Now Twitter has actually agreed to give Musk the data he so craves, along with data on the other 500 million or so tweets posted to the social network each day.
The data stream, which Twitter refers to as its “firehose,” could be handed over as soon as this week, according to an anonymous source who spoke to The Washington Post. The firehose is aptly named: it’s a real-time record of every tweet ever sent, along with information on the devices those tweets are sent from and information about the accounts that send them.
Earlier this week, Musk filed an official complaint with the SEC alleging that Twitter’s silence on the matter of fake accounts goes against his merger agreement. Now that Twitter’s actually willing to hand Musk the firehose, the biggest question is what excuse he’ll try next.
A complete and accurate understanding — Throughout Musk’s string of complaints, Twitter has maintained that approximately 5 percent of all accounts on the platform are bots at any given time. This is, as you might expect, based on a deep analysis of that firehose data.
Musk, meanwhile, complains that Twitter bots number somewhere around 20 percent of all accounts on the site. How he has managed to come to such a conclusion without actually accessing the firehose is, well, certainly suspicious.
Musk and his legal team contend that he must have a “complete and accurate understanding of the very core of Twitter’s business model [and] its active user base.” It’s unclear whether or not Musk would even have the means to properly analyze the firehose data once it’s in his possession.
What’s the next excuse? — Musk’s team claims he’s hung up on spam account data because it’s pertinent to his revenue projections. And Musk does seem to have some fixation on spam in general; this week he’s tweeting about “scam ads” on YouTube.
In the larger context of how he’s acted since submitting his $44 billion bid, though, Musk’s behavior really does come across as an expression of buyer’s remorse. Musk has been picking public fights with Twitter executives, for example — not exactly the kind of thing a proud new owner would be doing.
Maybe Musk will be satiated with his firehose access. Maybe the rest of the deal will run smoothly. It’s possible. We wouldn’t put any bets on it, though.