After bullying Twitter employees and saying he wants the former president of the swamp, and the U.S., Donald Trump back on the platform, Tesla CEO Elon Musk did what everyone thought he might do anyway. He thought long and hard about what it meant to really buy Twitter, and is apparently having second thoughts.
Early on Friday, Musk tweeted that his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter was “temporarily on hold” because he was waiting for confirmation that the amount of spam and fake accounts on the platform did indeed represent less than 5% of users.
“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Musk tweeted.
He included a link to a May 2 Reuters article that reported on Twitter’s estimated fake and spam accounts in the first quarter of the year, which it reported to be 5% of its monetizable daily active users. According to Reuters, the blue bird social media network had a total of 229 million users who were served ads in the first quarter.
More than an hour after his tweet announcing the pause, presumably in response to the havoc he was causing, Musk added that he was “still committed to acquisition.”
Gizmodo reached out to Twitter for comment on Friday but has not yet received a response.
Musk visited Twitter’s headquarters for a clandestine meeting last Friday, The New York Times reported. A spokesman told the Times: “as part of the transaction planning process, Elon Musk visited Twitter’s office for a meeting.” While taking a moment to investigate whether the platform you’re buying indeed has enough users to make it worth your while is no doubt sensible, it seems a bit off that Musk is bringing this up now, or more than two weeks after he announced his intention to buy the company. Plus, it’s not as if Twitter were hiding this information. It reported the numbers in filings on May 2.
Furthermore, it’s not as if Musk wasn’t aware of the spam accounts on the platform. He has frequently rallied against them and made “defeating the spam bots” one of his priorities in the very press release announcing his deal on April 25.
Considering cryptocurrency’s recent nosedive—Musk is a big crypto fan and owns crypto, though how much isn’t publicly known—and Tesla losing 20% of its value since its CEO announced that he was going to buy his favorite digital toy, Musk’s pause is not surprising from a financial standpoint. It is ironic from his personal standpoint though, since he’s said he “doesn’t care about the economics at all” when it comes to buying Twitter.
Twitter shares were down 17.6% in premarket trading after Musk’s pronouncement, fueling some speculation that the billionaire was trying to renegotiate the deal at a lower price.