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What Twitter’s possible bot problem could mean for the social media platform

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Yahoo Finance tech editor Dan Howley discusses the potential impact of Twitter's alleged bot problem amid Elon Musk's comments.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: The battle between Twitter and Elon Musk continues, as Tesla's CEO attempts to back out of the $44 billion acquisition. But if Musk is right about Twitter's bot problem, what does that mean for the social media platform? Yahoo Finance Editor Dan Howley joins us with more. Dan?

DAN HOWLEY: That's right. So the big discussion here is whether or not Elon Musk is right about Twitter having, I guess, as many as 20% of its users being bots. That's what he says. And when we talk about users, we should talk about what Twitter refers to as users, their monetizable daily active users.

They say that that's a number of users that it actually makes money off. Of so Elon Musk's contention is that 20% of those are actually not real people. They're bots. Twitter has repeatedly said it's 5%. But they couch that in, eh, it's a pretty judgment-based measurement, not necessarily completely scientifically accurate, things along those lines.

But the big deal though, is, sure, Elon Musk would have a field day if he's correct. But how this would impact advertisers? Now, the thing is, advertisers, they want to get their product in front of as many human eyeballs as possible obviously. Now, if they find out that it's not 5% but an additional 15% of accounts are just robots, then they're going to be pretty unhappy. And they may end up pulling out of Twitter or saying, look, we're not going to pay as much as you're requesting for this ad space, just because not as many real people are actually seeing it as you claimed.

So that would be devastating for Twitter, I think. And it's really up in the air where Elon Musk has gotten this 20% number. I think a lot of it is based on what people usually see on the platform or what they experience. He obviously has 100-million plus followers on Twitter. Naturally, that means he's going to get a lot of bots following him.

And then there's a broader discussion of just what is a bot? Because it's hard to tell if an account is a bot based on just what it's tweeting, since people can program them to seem like humans as well. So there's so much nuance in this discussion of something that you would think would just be very straightforward. But I think, really, the issue is, if Musk is right, which again, he would adore, it would really blow Twitter apart, I think.

JULIE HYMAN: Well, hopefully that doesn't happen.

BRIAN SOZZI: Hopefully it doesn't happen. All right--