We all know about Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and his ambition to remove bots from the platform, however, not all bots are created equal.
Today, Musk announced that the Twitter deal was on hold, while they investigate the amount of the Twitter user base that are spam/fake accounts.
Along with Twitter’s Q1 2022 earnings results, the company announced it had 229 million Monetizable Daily Active Users (mDAUs). This suggests the number of real users that could potentially pay the company money for services like Twitter Blue etc. This figure is in contrast to the much larger number of active accounts and an even higher number of overall user accounts which is expected to be as high as 400 Million.
If the actual number of mDAUs is far lower, because a larger percentage of active users accounts are not monetizable, then it certainly hurts the business case for the platform being worth as much as it is (or was before the market crash).
The fact this pause on the Twitter deal occurred today was interesting timing. I, like many other Twitter users, attended a Twitter Space, held by Twitter Dev, an engineering team at the company, where they discussed bots on the platform.
Developer advocates kicked off the Space with the number one question, and frankly, I was impressed they addressed it so directly.
Essentially the question was this. If Elon is buying the company and talking about killing bots, then are developers that are building bots on Twitter, wasting their time?
The answer was no, as Bots have been a part of the platform for years and there are lots of legitimate bots that offer automation that can enhance user experience that would not be categorised as spam.
This gets to the heart of the issue. What are the parameters for determining what is a spam bot and what is a useful bot?
Interestingly one of the questions from a developer was around a current limitation that prevents them from creating 10+ bots easily. When responding to the question, the Twitter Dev staff explained that’s a common complaint from devs. Personally, I think there should be friction if a single dev is spawning multiple accounts, that’s a recipe for spam to thrive.
Another developer asked a technical question around @mentions from a bot. He wanted to create an AI-generated poem and tag in a user that was into NFTs, defined by .eth in their username. For me, this is exactly the profile of a bot that should be banned. These users never asked for this engagement and would potentially be flooded with this, ruining their experience on the platform.
Amazingly the Twitter Dev team didn’t respond with warnings about creating a bot that worked like that, they engaged in support discussions, again sighting @mentions was something they’d heard a lot of feedback on from their community.
This was ultimately a missed opportunity to set the tone for the direction they want to push developers to, automation for people who opt into your service / Twitter bot, not having content pushed down their throat.
In the Reuters article Retweeted by Musk, it says a recent filing on Monday that false or spam accounts represented fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily active users during Q1 2022. Even if the number of spambots is 5%, that still accounts for 11.5 Million users, a significant chunk of the user base.
With Musk planning to take Twitter private, its expected that fundamental changes to the platform would be made (like removing these bots) and the resulting smaller userbase would send shockwaves through any public company that was meant to be growing.
Some are expecting Musk to repair and enhance the service and grow the user base (and income) before returning it to the public market a few years from now.
All of that appears to rest on the accuracy of Twitter’s bot problem.
Understandably with uncertainty about the deal’s future, Twitter stock ($TWTR) is down more than 11% in the pre-market.
Update: Musk has since tweeted to confirm he is still committed to the acquisition.