Former CEO Bob Iger reveals Disney found a ‘substantial portion’ of Twitter users were bots in 2016

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Former Disney CEO Bob Iger says that a ‘substantial portion’ of Twitter’s users were believed to be bots in 2016, when the company was deep into talks to purchase the social network.

‘We did look very carefully at all of the Twitter users — I guess they’re called users — and we at that point estimated with some of Twitter’s help that a substantial portion — not a majority — were not real,’ Iger said this week at Code Conference hosted by Vox in Los Angeles. 

Twitter is currently embroiled in a potential $44 billion sale to Elon Musk. The Tesla CEO is attempting to back out of his planned purchase, in part because he says Twitter hasn’t been honest about the number of bots versus actual human users.

Six years after Disney’s own departure, Iger is now sharing more details about why the acquisition never came to be. 

‘Yes, it’s a great solution from a distribution perspective. But it would come with so many other challenges and complexities that as a manager of a great global brand, I was not prepared to take on a major distraction and having to manage circumstances that weren’t even close to anything that we had faced before.’ Iger said at Code Conference (above)

Iger's comments come as Elon Musk and Twitter wage a legal war in Delaware over the mogul's attempt to back out of his planned $44 billion purchase of the platform - in part because he says Twitter hasn't been honest about the number of bots vs. actual human users

Iger’s comments come as Elon Musk and Twitter wage a legal war in Delaware over the mogul’s attempt to back out of his planned $44 billion purchase of the platform – in part because he says Twitter hasn’t been honest about the number of bots vs. actual human users

Disney was intent on getting into streaming at that time and had heard that Twitter was contemplating a sale — they saw the social network as a potential global distribution platform for their content.  

‘We could put news, sports, entertainment, [and] reach the world. And frankly, it would have been a phenomenal solution, distribution-wise,’ Iger said, according to Vox

‘Then, after we sold the whole concept to the Disney board and the Twitter board, and we’re really ready to execute — the negotiation was just about done — I went home, contemplated it for a weekend, and thought, “I’m not looking at this as carefully as I need to look at it.”

‘Yes, it’s a great solution from a distribution perspective. But it would come with so many other challenges and complexities that as a manager of a great global brand, I was not prepared to take on a major distraction and having to manage circumstances that weren’t even close to anything that we had faced before. 

'Then you have to look, of course, at all the hate speech and potential to do as much harm as good. We’re in the business of manufacturing fun at Disney — of doing nothing but good, even though there are others today that criticize Disney for the opposite, which is wrong,' Iger said

‘Then you have to look, of course, at all the hate speech and potential to do as much harm as good. We’re in the business of manufacturing fun at Disney — of doing nothing but good, even though there are others today that criticize Disney for the opposite, which is wrong,’ Iger said

Iger then made a nod towards one of Musk’s headline-making complaints, and said that Disney also found discrepancies between purported and real users on Twitter. 

‘Interestingly enough, because I read the news these days, we did look very carefully at all of the Twitter users — I guess they’re called users? — and we at that point estimated with some of Twitter’s help that a substantial portion — not a majority — were not real. 

‘Then you have to look, of course, at all the hate speech and potential to do as much harm as good. We’re in the business of manufacturing fun at Disney — of doing nothing but good, even though there are others today that criticize Disney for the opposite, which is wrong. 

‘This was just something that we were not ready to take on and I was not ready to take on as the CEO of a company and I thought it would have been irresponsible.’ 

Elon Musk and Twitter are waging a legal war in Delaware over the mogul’s attempt to back out of his planned $44 billion purchase of the platform. 

When technology journalist Kara Swisher, who was interviewing Iger at Code Conference, pressed the former CEO for his take on Musk’s actions toward Twitter, Iger replied, ‘Maybe he saw what I saw, he woke up and said, “I can’t handle this.” But he doesn’t seem the type, and I mean that in a complimentary way.’

Podcast host Lex Fridman on Wednesday said: ‘Twitter bots have really gone wild lately.’

Fridman then shared screen grabs of the same bot tweeting nonsense replies to his first tweet every second or two. 

The Tesla CEO responded to him with the ‘thinking face’ emoji. 

As Musk's legal fight in Delaware continues, podcast host Lex Fridman on Wednesday said: 'Twitter bots have really gone wild lately.'

As Musk’s legal fight in Delaware continues, podcast host Lex Fridman on Wednesday said: ‘Twitter bots have really gone wild lately.’

Fridman then shared screen grabs of the same bot tweeting nonsense replies to his first tweet every second or two - to support his comments about how bots have 'really gone wild'

Fridman then shared screen grabs of the same bot tweeting nonsense replies to his first tweet every second or two – to support his comments about how bots have ‘really gone wild’ 

Musk scored a victory recently when Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, the head judge of Delaware’s Court of Chancery, said he can include new evidence from a Twitter whistleblower.

The mogul’s legal team has argued that the allegations made by former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko to U.S. officials may help bolster Musk’s claims that Twitter misled him and the public about the company’s problem with fake and ‘spam’ accounts. 

Zatko filed a damning whistleblower complaint last month alleging the social media giant was not forthcoming to the public and Musk about its security practices.

He accused Twitter of years of ‘material misrepresentation and omissions’ about security and privacy protections, claiming company executives have ‘lied’ about the number of spam or bot accounts.

The whistleblower went on to explain that while employees are encouraged not to count spam accounts as ‘monetizable daily active users,’ mDAUs — a metric Twitter provides to advertisers — they have little incentive to detect spam accounts among the large number of accounts that do not count as mDAUs.

By 2021, Zatko wrote, he asked Twitter’s head of site integrity roughly how many accounts are spam and was told ‘We don’t really know.’

‘Deliberate ignorance was the norm among the executive leadership team,’ Zatko claims in the whistleblower complaint.

He added that Twitter deployed ‘moistly outdated, unmonitored simple scripts plus overworked, inefficient, understaffed and reactive human teams’ to detect bot accounts.

The mogul's legal team has argued that the allegations made by Zatko to U.S. officials may help bolster Musk's claims that Twitter misled him and the public about the company's problem with fake and 'spam' accounts

The mogul’s legal team has argued that the allegations made by Zatko to U.S. officials may help bolster Musk’s claims that Twitter misled him and the public about the company’s problem with fake and ‘spam’ accounts

The Twitter whistleblower asked the company's head of site integrity roughly how many accounts are spam and was told 'We don't really know.' 'Deliberate ignorance was the norm among the executive leadership team,' Zatko claims in the whistleblower complaint

The Twitter whistleblower asked the company’s head of site integrity roughly how many accounts are spam and was told ‘We don’t really know.’ ‘Deliberate ignorance was the norm among the executive leadership team,’ Zatko claims in the whistleblower complaint

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