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Elon Musk’s Twitter Bot Problem Is Fake News

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With his professed concern about fake accounts on Twitter, Elon Musk appears to be grasping at legal straws in an attempt to back out of his commitment to buy the social networking company for $54.20 a share, or at least to pay less for it. But his gambit has shined a light on a real scourge of online companies and their users.

Counting the autonomous accounts that mimic real people is just as slippery as valuing companies. A 2020 study by Adrian Rauchfleisch and Jonas Kaiser looking at thousands of Twitter accounts, including hundreds of verified politicians as well as “obvious” bots, found Botometer, the industry-standard learning algorithm trained to calculate the likelihood of an account is a bot, yields imprecise scores leading to both false negatives and false positives.

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