Elon Musk is known to be a very communicative Twitter user. He also seems to enjoy causing trouble with his many statements on the online platform. And so it was fitting when he announced last Friday that his recently agreed $44 billion acquisition of Twitter was “temporarily on hold.” It was a bang, made all the more puzzling because Musk’s reasoning sounded implausible. He referred to Twitter’s statement in the latest annual report, according to which less than 5 percent of all accounts are not real users, but “spam” or “fake”. Musk suggested he wanted to verify that this was actually true. Of course, this statement in the annual report is by no means new or even explosive information that would justify calling the transaction into question. Previous annual reports had also put the number of fake accounts at less than 5 percent – and also pointed out with exactly the same wording that the real value could be higher.
Many observers are therefore convinced that Musk’s reference to fake accounts is a hoax. What intentions he might be pursuing with this is less clear. Does he want to let the first agreed transaction burst completely? It’s conceivable, after all, from the start there were doubts about how serious he actually was about his takeover intentions, and Musk is known for erratic maneuvers. It is also possible that the tweet was a first attempt to reopen negotiations and get a lower price. In a video interview at a conference on Monday, he said a deal at a lower bid was “not out of the question”.