More On: Elon Musk
Elon Musk said that Bill Gates has a bet against Tesla worth billions of dollars and that Jeff Bezos is 'fine, I guess.'
He's got to be joking, right?
According to CNBC, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, and maybe the future owner of Twitter, has a scheme to figure out how many bogus accounts there are on the social media platform: ask users to count them individually. Experts argue this is a fool's errand.
Indeed, his proposal appeared to be so implausible on the surface that experts believe Musk is attempting to tease us.
Late last Friday, Musk made headlines once more when he said that the Twitter transaction is "on pause" for the time being, "waiting details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do fact comprise less than 5% of users."
Later, he did say that he is "still committed to acquisition."
Many viewed Musk's move as an attempt to back out of the $44 billion buyout.
Musk has already expressed his displeasure with spambots, threatening to put a stop to them once and for all when he takes over the company. On the platform, the billionaire has also promised to "authenticate all real persons."
"To find out," Musk said on Friday, "my team will take a random sample of 100 Twitter followers." "I welcome others to try the same experiment and see what they come up with...
He said, "Pick any account with a lot of followers." "Ignore the first 1000 people who follow you, then pick every tenth." Better ideas are welcome."
His grand project, it turns out, is methodologically simpleminded.
Many people, including Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, were quick to point out that the billionaire's strategy isn't random and that the sample size is way too small.
"How will they know which one is real?" Moskovitz countered. "I also think 'doesn't trust the Twitter staff to help pull the sample' is a red flag in and of itself."
Others have pointed out that Musk's latest comments show that he has done shockingly little investigation to comprehend what he's ready to pay tens of billions of dollars for.
Which begs the question: is Musk, the world's biggest troll, playing a new game with us?
"Perhaps bots are less likely to follow this account to escape discovery," Carl Bergstrom, a University of Washington professor who co-wrote a book on public data misunderstanding, told CNBC. "Perhaps they'll follow just to appear legitimate."
"However, I can't imagine Musk is doing anything other than teasing us with this dumb sampling scheme," he continued, echoing Moskovitz's stance.
After Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal attempted to clear the air in a lengthy discussion on Monday, the belief that Musk is merely playing with us gathered traction.
In short, the issue is significantly more convoluted than Musk portrays it, with Agrawal pointing out that "spam isn't merely 'binary' (human/nonhuman)." Furthermore, he stated that Twitter already suspends "nearly half a million spam accounts every day, frequently before any of you see them on Twitter."
"Our real internal estimations over the prior four quarters were all far under 5%," Agrawal wrote, adding that "it's impossible to tell which accounts are counted as [monetizable daily active users] on any given day."
Musk, for one, chose to provide almost no significant or helpful comments, a strategy he has grown notorious for over the years.
"Have you tried calling them directly?" Musk sarcastically responded to Agrawal's explanation of how Twitter detects whether an account is legitimate or false.
Then he added a poop emoji, which we take very seriously.
Overall, Musk appears to be uninterested in resolving Twitter's spam problem, which is a severe and pressing issue.
The billionaire CEO has once again demonstrated his lack of trust in Twitter's leadership. According to Agrawal, the company's executives even shared the whole estimation process with Musk personally, which he blatantly ignored.
At the end of the day, Musk's words show that we don't know much about his true objectives. It's a difficult negotiation that might get even messier — and it's costing Twitter a lot of money.