Questions raised on Elon Musk’s bot claims on Twitter

Leading bot researchers have questioned Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s claims about the huge presence of fake/spamming accounts on Twitter, as the online tool his team used to count bots on the micro-blogging platform cannot be relied upon.

Musk’s legal team has mentioned the use of ‘Botometer’ that tracks spam and fake accounts in a countersuit against Twitter.

Using the tool, the Tesla CEO’s team estimated that 33 per cent of “visible accounts” on the social media platform were “false or spam accounts”, as against Twitter’s claim that spam accounts represent less than five per cent of its daily active users.

According to the BBC, the court filings made by Musk’s legal team have now been questioned by ‘Botometer’ creator Kaicheng Yang, who said that the figure “doesn’t mean anything”.

“In order to estimate the prevalence (of bots), you need to choose a threshold to cut the score,” Yang was quoted as saying in the report.

“If you change the threshold from a three to a two then you will get more bots and less humans. So how to choose this threshold is key to the answer of how many bots there are on the platform,” he added.

However, Musk’s countersuit does not explain what threshold it used to reach its 33 per cent number, according to Yang who has questioned the methodology.

Yang said he was not approached by Musk’s legal team before they used the tool.

In his countersuit, Musk claimed that a third of visible Twitter accounts were fake.

Using that figure, “the team estimated that a minimum of 10 per cent of daily active users are bots”.

According to Yang, the countersuit “doesn’t make the details clear, so he (Musk) has the freedom to do whatever he wants. So the number to me, it doesn’t mean anything”, reports the BBC.

Musk on Friday said that Parag Agrawal-led Twitter is avoiding sharing information on the actual number of bot and spam accounts on his platform.

The Tesla CEO has said that if Agrawal can prove the actual number of fake accounts, then the terminated deal can still move forward.

“If Twitter simply provides their method of sampling 100 accounts and how they’re confirmed to be real, the deal should proceed on original terms,” Musk had tweeted.

Amid the ongoing legal dispute, Musk has also challenged Agrawal to have a public debate on fake accounts and spam.

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