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Elon Musk wanted more data, so Twitter gave him all of it

Elon Musk looking unhappy
Reuters/Brendan McDermid
Elon Musk is in a bind.
  • Scott Nover
By Scott Nover

Emerging tech reporter

Published

Elon Musk’s latest objection to the $44 billion deal he signed to buy Twitter is that the company hasn’t provided enough information. That, Musk’s lawyers allege, has made it impossible for him to get a loan—one of the few conditions that would allow the Tesla and SpaceX CEO to get out of the deal.

Except that argument likely won’t work. On June 8, Twitter gave Musk access to its entire “firehose,” a stream of tweets and metadata about them that encompasses the 500 million tweets per day, according to The Washington Post.

Musk had originally claimed, back in May, that Twitter misrepresented the number of bots it counted as users in its public filings. Given that he already signed the deal, which didn’t mention anything about bots at all, this line of argument was unlikely to give Musk a legal way out.

But that’s not really at issue anymore, because, Musk’s lawyers’ latest argument was that Twitter wouldn’t give him sufficient information about its user base in order to get his loans and complete the deal. That is going to be much harder to prove now that Twitter has given him access to the firehose.

Twitter’s user base has always been unclear

All public social media companies report their user numbers to shareholders. But most peer companies like Meta, Snap, and Pinterest use monthly active users (MAU) or daily active users (DAU).

In 2019, Twitter came up with its own statistic called monetizable daily active users (mDAU). It’s a measure of how many Twitter users they can serve ads to on any given day, though it’s not entirely clear what that accounts for. Twitter recently admitted to overcounting its user numbers.

In order for Musk to drink out of the firehose Twitter just handed over, so to speak, he would need to have a team of data scientists decipher what is bot activity and what isn’t, determine what users are “monetizable” and when they logged in, and then surmise how many bots were counted as monetizable users.

It’s an impossible task and possibly a brilliant move for Twitter. This likely spoils Musk’s line of argument that Twitter isn’t giving him the information he needs to get his loans. If there’s one thing Twitter just gave him, it’s information. They just gave him too much of it.

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