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New research validates Twitter’s bot claim challenged by Elon Musk as court case looms

New research has revealed Elon Musk’s concerns about the amount of bots on Twitter are unfounded, ahead of his court battle with the social media site in October.

Elon Musk made headlines this year when it was announced he had agreed to buy Twitter for $44bn, only to terminate the deal soon after, leading to Twitter suing to hold him to the agreement. 

One of Musk’s reasons for pulling out of the deal was a dispute over the amount of Twitter accounts that are bots, which he claims make up 20% of monetisable daily active users (mDAU); i.e. users that will generate income for the company. However, a report by data intelligence platform Similarweb has looked into Twitter’s mDAU and found that bots do not make up a large percentage and that the actual number is much closer to Twitter’s claim of 5%. 

Data scientists estimated the mDAU of Twitter using Similarweb’s extensive datasets (user panels, direct measurements and publicly available data) with statistical analysis. The study found no evidence to support Musk’s claim that up to 20% of mDAUs are bots and that Twitter’s 5% bot estimate looks reasonable. 

“We looked at the problem of verifying the reported mDAU by Twitter from a unique perspective,” Similarweb CTO Ron Asher said. “We use a panel where we have confidence that the panellists are real human users. With that information in hand and the proper models, we were able to accurately analyse the population of the reported mDAU by Twitter. In a nutshell, we believe that our data supports Twitter’s position on this point.”

However, this does not mean that Twitter is completely in the clear. The study also found a unique trend related to the content creation activity of Twitter’s mDAU revealing that only 19% of real US authenticated Twitter users generate content on any given day.  

Assuming Twitter’s estimate that 5% of mDAU are bots is correct, and combining this with Similarweb’s research estimate that 19% of mDAU create all content, this implies that approximately 20.8% of the US content on Twitter is generated by bots. This is also only a low estimate. Given that bots generate an estimated 1.57x more content than humans, data suggests that bots likely generate 29.2% of US content on Twitter.

While the research may not undermine Twitter’s mDAU statistics, it does undercut the opportunities for real human interaction on Twitter that could be considered valuable.