Nearly one out of every four of Elon Musk’s Twitter followers are either spam or bot accounts, according to researchers.
Musk, who has signaled he may pull out of his $44 billion acquisition of Twitter because of the prevalence of fake bots, has a total of 93.8 million followers on the social media platform.
Of those, more than 23.42% of them are either fake or spam accounts, according to two research groups whose findings were reported by Business Insider.
SparkToro and Followerwonk conducted an audit of Musk’s Twitter followers.
The two companies said they used a system of 17 warning signals. They also deployed an algorithm that scanned through 35,000 fake accounts that were bought by SparkToro.
The two firms also separately marked 50,000 accounts as non-spam.
Musk followers that were flagged for multiple signals were rated low quality or fake.
The two research firms also estimate that more than 70% of Musk’s followers are accounts that haven’t tweeted in 90 days.
These inactive users, according to the researchers, were unlikely to be “authentic” or “active users who see his tweets.”
The researchers say that 73% of Musk’s followers have “spam-correlated keywords” on their profiles and that 71% use locations that don’t match any known place name.
They also say that 41% of Musk’s followers have display names that match spam patterns.
Nearly 70% of Musk’s followers have also been inactive for more than 120 days, according to researchers.
Musk, the Tesla CEO who is also the world’s richest man, has threatened to walk away from the $44 billion deal if the company didn’t prove it was sufficiently cracking down on spam and bot accounts.
The San Francisco-based company filed a statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday morning saying it would not allow Musk to wriggle free from his $44 billion offer for the social media platform.
“Twitter is committed to completing the transaction on the agreed price,” the company said in its SEC filing.
The Tesla and SpaceX boss agreed to pay $54.20 per share for the site on April 25 but has seen shares plunge by 30 percent, closing at $37.15 on Monday.
Musk faces a $1 billion breakup fee, plus the risk of hefty legal expenses from a breach-of-contract lawsuit, if he scraps the deal.
Twitter has found itself on the defensive after Musk publicly trashed its policies on spam and bot accounts last week.
Parag Agrawal, the company CEO, took to Twitter on Monday in an effort to refute Musk’s claim that the social media site has allowed spam and bot accounts to run amok.
Spam “harms the experience for real people on Twitter,” he wrote, and the company is “strongly incentivized to detect and remove as much spam as we possibly can, every single day.”
“Anyone who suggests otherwise is just wrong,” Agrawal tweeted.
Musk appeared to be unimpressed, tweeting a poop emoji in response. He then commented: “So how do advertisers know what they’re getting for their money? This is fundamental to the financial health of Twitter.”
The company has admitted in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that about 5 percent of its 300 million users are fake.
Musk demanded Agrawal show proof or “This deal cannot move forward until he does,” in a tweet early Tuesday.
He added: “20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher.”
Last week, Musk claimed there is “some chance” the actual number of fake accounts on Twitter “might be over 90% of daily active users.”