Twitter is preparing to comply with Elon Musk’s demand for data on fake accounts, after the Tesla chief executive threatened to walk away from buying the business if it refused.
The social media company will provide the world’s richest man with access to a stream of data comprising more than 500 million tweets posted every day, according to the Washington Post. A number of companies already pay for access to the data, which includes a real-time record of tweets, the devices users tweet from and information about the accounts that tweet, the Post reported.
The New York Times also reported that Twitter would let Musk view its “firehose” of daily traffic, in response to legal threats that the deal would be in jeopardy otherwise.
Musk warned Twitter on Monday that he might walk away from his $44bn deal to acquire the company if it fails to provide the data on spam and fake accounts that he seeks. The multibillionaire has expressed doubts over Twitter’s claim that fake and spam accounts represent less than 5% of its 229 million-strong user base.
In a letter to Twitter’s chief legal officer published on Monday, lawyers representing the Tesla chief executive said he believed the company was “actively resisting and thwarting” his rights to access data and information from the company under the agreement.
They said declining to present the information was a “material breach” of the deal agreement, which would allow Musk to walk away without paying the $1bn break fee written into the deal.
Carl Tobias, Williams chair in law at the University of Richmond, said that access to the data still might not satisfy Musk because of the sheer scale of information that he will have to sift through. “Even were Musk to secure access to the ‘firehose data’, it would be resource-intensive to review the data and may prove unsatisfactory to Musk. In short, it now seems that the standoff continues,” he said.
Twitter shares rose 0.8% in afternoon trading to $40.45 following the reports, compared with the agreed deal price of $54.20 per share, indicating investor pessimism that the deal will happen even if the sharing of data could make it more difficult for Musk to terminate the deal .
When contacted for comment, Twitter referred the Guardian to a statement issued on Monday in which the company said it will “continue to cooperatively share information with Mr Musk to consume the transaction in accordance with the terms of the merger agreement”.
Fake or spam accounts, known as bot accounts, are automated and not run by human users. They may use the reply function or direct messages to send adverts or scams to users, or represent attempts to influence public debate by tweeting political propaganda. Musk has questioned whether advertisers – who provide the majority of Twitter’s income – are getting value for money due to the bots issue, although Twitter has consistently stuck by the 5% figure in its quarterly earnings reports since 2014.
It was also reported on Wednesday that a Twitter’s chief legal officer, Vijaya Gadde, had told employees a shareholder vote on the deal could come by late July or early August as both sides work towards completing the takeover.