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Three Top Execs Depart Twitter As Musk Signals Bot Account Estimate Is Way Low

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


The top executives at Twitter continue to bail out of the company ahead of an expected buyout takeover by billionaire Elon Musk, as three more announced they were leaving on Tuesday.

Bloomberg News reported that Ilya Brown, a vice president of product management; Katrina Lane, a vice president of Twitter service, and Max Schmeiser, the head of data science, all turned in their resignations.

“We are thankful for all of their hard work and leadership,” a Twitter spokesperson told the news outlet. “We continue to be focused on providing the very best experience to the people on Twitter.”

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Their departures come less than a week after Parag Agrawal, the platform’s CEO, fired two top executives — Kayvon Beykpour, the company’s general manager, and Bruce Falck, Twitter’s head of revenue, while adopting other cost-cutting measures including a hiring freeze. Jay Sullivan, the company’s head of consumer product, is moving into Beykpour’s former position.

“At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, the decision was made to invest aggressively to deliver big growth in audience and revenue, and as a company, we did not hit intermediate milestones that enable confidence in these goals,” Agrawal wrote in a memo to employees last week.

“In order to responsibly manage the organization as we sharpen our roadmaps and our work, we need to continue to be intentional about our teams, hiring and costs,” he said. “Leaders will continue making changes to their organizations to improve efficiencies as needed.”

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The hemorrhaging of top leadership comes amid rising controversy over the number of actual genuine users on the platform, which has gotten the interest of Musk and could result in him substantially lowering his initial $44 billion offer.

And he noted as much on the platform early Tuesday, tweeting: “20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher. My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

His tweet also included a link to a Teslarati article that said that Musk believes at least 20 percent of the accounts on Twitter are bots/spam accounts:

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Elon Musk may be looking for a better deal with his Twitter acquisition and $44 billion may now be sounding like a price that is just a bit too high. During a tech conference called “All In” in Miami on Monday, Musk remarked that he believes 20 percent of users on the platform are fake or spam accounts, and it may be the reason the Tesla CEO did not rule out the possibility of a deal reformation that would require him to pay a lower price.

According to Bloomberg, Musk stated the possibility of a reformed Twitter does was not “out of the question,” a comment that surged further losses in Twitter’s stock, which has traded in the red for eight consecutive days. Analysts have questioned Musk’s taste for the $44 billion acquisition agreement over the past several days, pointing out the CEO’s nearly-impromptu concerns that raised red flags of a man who is looking for a way out.

“Our view is while Musk is committed to the deal the massive pressure on Tesla’s stock since the deal a changing stock market/risk environment [over] the last month, and a number of other financing factors has caused Musk to get ‘cold feet’ on the Twitter deal with the bot issue not a new issue and likely more of a scapegoat to push for a lower price,” Wedbush’s Dan Ives said in a note to investors on Tuesday, the report noted.

Musk is also questioning Agrawal’s claim that it isn’t possible to accurately estimate the number of bot accounts, which was seconded on Tuesday by a cybersecurity researcher named Andrea Stroppa who noted her years of expertise on that very subject.

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“Dear Parag, I’m surprised that you say that external researchers couldn’t estimate bots. That’s not true. As [a] researcher that worked ~9 years on these topics (I’m the author of one of first independent report about twitter bots) I can say that’s possible. BTW: open your data,” she noted on Twitter, adding a smiley face.

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Musk responded: “Seems like Twitter should welcome external validation if their claims are true.”

On a related note, the New York Post also reported Tuesday that by one estimate, at least half of President Joe Biden’s 22.2 million followers are fake bot accounts, according to a new audit.

“The audit, which was done for the social media giant by software firm SparkToro, found that 49.3% of the president’s followers are ‘fake followers,'” The Post reported, citing Newsweek.

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