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Elon Musk Threatens to Cancel His Purchase of Twitter Unless They Come Clean on How Many Accounts are Spam Bots

Win McNamee. Getty Images.

When the World's Richest Man [TM] launches a hostile takeover of the western world's most influential social media platform, it's going to be anything but a simple process. That's especially true when the intended buyer vows to radically remake the site and turn it into the free speech zone it was intended to be when it was first launched. And that's especially especially true when said mogul is an eccentric like Elon Musk. 

From the beginning of Musk's stated interest in owning Twitter, he's basically played with the company like a cat does a rodent it intends to kill. He ran polls on the site asking if it needs less regulation. Threatened to turn the company's headquarters in San Francisco into a homeless shelter if his future employees don't come back to work. Generally poked the bear and got the reaction he was looking for:

Ran another poll when members of congress started criticizing him and suggested the sale get blocked. Which revealed how much support he has among his almost 100 million followers:

Which was confirmed by some other Blue Checkmark's poll:

But lately, with the Purchase and Sale all signed, the sale of the property seems to be languishing in whatever red tape hell $44 billion business deals go to die. The issue being that before he puts his signature on the line which is dotted, Musk has been asking Twitter to reveal how many of its accounts are phony. They've been dragging their feet on the issue. And claimed that the bots make up less than 5% of all accounts.

So today, Musk's lawyers filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission and laid it all out. In language even a mediocre Business student from Bridgewater State can understand:

We are in receipt of correspondence sent on Twitter’s behalf dated June 1, 2022, responding to Mr. Musk’s request for the data and information described in my letters dated May 25, 2022 and May 31, 2022.

 Mr. Musk does not agree with the characterizations in Twitter’s June 1 letter. Twitter has, in fact, refused to provide the information that Mr. Musk has repeatedly requested since May 9, 2022 to facilitate his evaluation of spam and fake accounts on the company’s platform. Twitter’s latest offer to simply provide additional details regarding the company’s own testing methodologies, whether through written materials or verbal explanations, is tantamount to refusing Mr. Musk’s data requests.  …

Twitter is required to provide data and information that Mr. Musk requests in connection with the consummation of the transaction. Twitter’s obligations to provide Mr. Musk with information is not, as the company’s June 1 letter suggests, limited to a “very specific purpose: facilitating the closing of the transaction.” To the contrary, Mr. Musk is entitled to seek, and Twitter is obligated to provide, information and data. … Mr. Musk reserves all rights resulting therefrom, including his right not to consummate the transaction and his right to terminate the merger agreement."

Again, I'm no business expert. (Despite the thesis I did on what a bad investment publicly financed sports stadia are, that my professor called "a perfect paper." In case I haven't mentioned that before. No humble; just brag.) But it seems to me like in this situation, Musk is being reasonable, and Twitter is guilty of intentionally gumming up the works. He's being Hans Gruber, and they're going full Ellis:

I mean, if you go to buy a car and the seller won't tell you if it's been in an accident or how many miles it's got or let you take it to your mechanic for an inspection, they're simply not serious about watching you drive off the lot in your new vehicle. Even Foot Locker lets you try on their kicks and walk around a little in them before you buy. It sounds like Twitter doesn't even want him to take  their company out of the box and pull the paper out, much less see how it looks on his feet in one of those tilted floor mirror things. 

Imagine trying to get this past the crew on Shark Tank. Mark Cuban or Kevin O'Leary want to know what's the active ingredient in your energy drink or what your price point is, and you give them the equivalent of "That's for me to know and you to find out." They'd laugh in your face and have security see you out. Lori Grenier would wish you good luck living in the cardboard boxes your unsold product never shipped in. But Twitter is acting like this essential data is on a need-to-know basis. And Musk just ought to take their word that it's what they say it is and just cut the check for the rest of what he owes them. 

So good on Musk for calling their bluff. There should be very little doubt in anyone's mind that this is all just a ruse by some people at Twitter to tank the sale. And with any luck, this will be one of those rare instances where the federal government does what it's supposed to do, makes the company cough up the info so the sale can proceed on schedule. The sooner it does, the sooner Musk can delete the bot accounts, verify that everyone on there is who they say they are, and make it so the free speech on the platform is dictated by what you're legally allowed to say (i.e., no direct threats against anyone, no advocating for actual, physical violence, etc.) instead of what some worker drones at the company think you should be allowed to say. 

If/when that day comes, Twitter is going to be positively wild.