The excuse used by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in his attempt to renege on his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter due to an excessive number of bots is gaining momentum. First came the claims of the Twitter whistleblower. Then, Robert Iger, who served as the CEO of The Walt Disney Company between 2005 and 2020, came out with more details. He revealed that Disney determined that a large proportion of Twitter users were “not real” when the entertainment giant considered purchasing the social network in 2016.
Bots are a piece of important information mentioned by Iger, something that he didn’t talk about before. This caught the attention of Elon Musk. Negotiations were in the works between the boards of Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N), Iger said, until it stopped. According to him, Disney, with Twitter’s help, learned that “a substantial portion – not the majority -” of users were fake. In remarks in Beverly Hills, California, Iger said, “I remember discounting the value as a result.”
Iger did not clarify specifically the meaning of “substantial.” He said: “I don’t remember the number, but we discounted the value heavily. But that was built into our economics. Actually, the deal that we had was pretty cheap,” according to Gizmodo.
Iger wrote in his memoir, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” that he was concerned about a Twitter partnership due to what he described as the nastiness of Twitter, which could distract people. “Interestingly enough, because I read the news these days, we did look very carefully at all of the Twitter users—I guess they’re called users?—and we at that point estimated with some of Twitter’s help that a substantial portion, not a majority, were not real,” Iger detailed.
As for Musk, the ever-active Twitter user, he wrote a tweet about the former Disney CEO’s remarks. “Interesting…,” he said in a tweet. The comments from Iger are coming in the midst of a legal battle involving Elon Musk and Twitter over the billionaire entrepreneur’s deal to buy the social media company for $44 billion. Twitter misrepresented the prevalence of spam or bot accounts on its platform, according to Musk, who is trying to back out of the deal. For the past several months, Twitter has reported that less than 5 percent of its daily active users are considered bots or spam accounts.
So, this is definitely good news for Musk and his team, who claim that Twitter lied about the number of bots on its platform. The only difference between Iger and Musk was that Iger didn’t sign a binding contract nor did he publicly announce that he was buying Twitter as Musk did. Disney has never made it official or signed an acquisition agreement.
Recently, Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko, the company’s former chief security officer, filed a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that Twitter had not shown any interest in knowing how many bots it has. Iger’s new information about the platform’s bots comes just over a week after that.
Musk and his team were given permission by Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick to add Zatko’s whistleblower complaint to the case.