Elon Musk says that his takeover of Twitter is “pending”.

Elon Musk said his $ 44 billion bid to buy Twitter was “temporarily on hold” until he could get more details to confirm that spam and fake accounts represent less than 5 percent of the social network’s total users.

Musk announced this in a tweet before dawn on Friday, the latest chapter in a corporate drama that unfolds that has raised questions about freedom of expression online and the consequences of putting the world’s richest person in charge of one of the most influential social media. platforms.

Mr Musk, CEO of Tesla, has said that getting rid of the platform for fake accounts, robots and spam would be one of his top priorities after taking over. In his tweet, Mr. Musk referred to a May 2 regulatory submission from Twitter that included an estimate of the number of spam and fake accounts.

Known for his free-spirited and sometimes impulsive business style, Mr. Musk’s comments raised questions about the future of the deal.

About two hours after his first announcement on Friday – and after shares on Twitter had fallen around 20 percent in pre-market trading – Musk posted again that he was “still committed to acquisitions.”

Twitter has few restrictions on signing up for an account, and the company has long struggled with spam and bots. But it has been difficult to put an exact figure on the extent of the problem. In a regulatory submission from May 2, Twitter said they had estimated that less than 5 percent of users were fake or spam, a number it had previously revealed. Twitter warned that it had used “significant judgment” in making the calculation, and that “the estimation of fake accounts or spam accounts may not represent the actual number exactly”, language similar to that used in previous registrations from the company.

Mr. Musk’s comments were seen as either a tactic to lower the price of the acquisition or a pretext to eventually withdraw completely.

“Many will see this as Musk using this Twitter archiving / spam account as a way to get out of this deal in a rapidly changing market,” said Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush, in a note to investors.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Musk’s surprise message on Twitter has sparked considerable debate about the role of a social media platform in monitoring what is being said by users. Twitter has spent years fighting hate speech, harassment and other online abuse, but Mr. Musk, who has a history of using the platform to attack and belittle critics, has vowed to loosen the company’s guidelines for moderating content. On Tuesday, he said he would lift a ban on former President Donald J. Trump.

Withdrawing from the agreement can be messy. The purchase agreement includes a $ 1 billion fee that Mr. Musk would have to pay if he terminated the agreement, although it was unclear how such a clause would apply if Mr. Musk could prove that Twitter’s user numbers were incorrect. If Mr. Musk’s debt financing is intact, Twitter could also take the billionaire to court to force him to pay for the deal.

Mr Musk has promised to use a significant amount of his personal fortune to fund the deal for Twitter, a plan that has been affected by a recent fall in stock prices, including Teslas. Tesla’s stock has fallen nearly 30 percent in the past month. Mr. Musk both sells Tesla shares and puts them as collateral for personal loans to raise money.

If a deal were to be finalized, business challenges on Twitter could force Mr. Musk to further draw on shares in the electric car maker to close potential financial gaps. And any problem with Tesla that caused the stock to fall far enough could trigger clauses in Mr. Musk’s personal loan that will require him to add more security, limiting his ability to invest in Twitter.

Tesla’s stock rose Friday after Mr. Musk’s comments.

Mr. Musk’s bid has created uncertainty on Twitter, a company that is already struggling to add users and generate more revenue. On Thursday, Twitter’s CEO, Parag Agrawal, fired two top executives, stopped new hires and promised to cut spending.

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