Elon Musk, during an event at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019.
In the midst of his deal to acquire Twitter, Elon Musk has called on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to look into the social network’s user numbers.
Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, wrote in an informal Twitter poll on Tuesday, “Twitter claims that >95% of daily active users are real, unique humans. Does anyone have that experience?” He then said, in response to a follower, who suggested the SEC begin an investigation, “Hello @SECGov, anyone home?”
The SEC has been aware of Twitter’s murky metrics for years.
Musk agreed to buy Twitter last month for $44 billion, but has since said the deal is on pause as he looks into bots, spam and fakes. Twitter has said it still expects the transaction to go through at the agreed upon price of $54.20 a share.
Investors have been dumping the shares on concerns that Musk is going to abandon his agreement, which would force him to pay a $1 billion breakup fee. Twitter’s stock has given up all its gains since Musk first disclosed his 9% stake in the company early last month.
Shares of Twitter were up more than 3% on Tuesday to $38.76, below the $39.31 closing price on April 1, the last trading session before Musk revealed his minority ownership.
In its first-quarter financial filing this year, Twitter acknowledged there are a number of “false or spam accounts” on its platform, alongside legitimate monetizable daily active usage or users (mDAUs). The company said it estimated the average of false or spam accounts represented fewer than 5% of mDAUs during that period.
Twitter also admitted to overstating user numbers by 1.4 million to 1.9 million users over the past three years.
“In March of 2019, we launched a feature that allowed people to link multiple separate accounts together in order to conveniently switch between accounts,” Twitter disclosed. “An error was made at that time, such that actions taken via the primary account resulted in all linked accounts being counted as mDAU.”
Musk has repeatedly expressed his disdain for the SEC, including on Twitter in October 2018, when he called the agency the “shortseller enrichment commission,” and in July 2020 when he wrote, “SEC, three letter acronym, middle word is Elon’s.”
The SEC previously charged Musk with securities fraud in 2018 after he tweeted that he was considering taking his car company private at $420 per share and had “funding secured.” They reached a settlement agreement to resolve the matter. But Musk has said that the financial regulator’s ongoing investigations amount to harassment.