Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that Twitter is being investigated for possible fraudulent reporting on its fake bot accounts, which would be a violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
Paxton issued a Civil Investigative Demand (CID) to check into Twitter’s financial regulatory filings that claim less than 5% of the platform’s users are automated “bots” rather than human users.
According to the press release, bots could make up as much as 20% or more of the social media site’s users.
The CID requires Twitter to provide documents relating to how it calculates and handles its user data, as well as how these numbers connect to Twitter’s advertising operations.
“Texans rely on Twitter’s public statements that nearly all its users are real people. It matters not only for regular Twitter users but also Texas businesses and advertisers who use Twitter for their livelihoods,” said Attorney General Paxton. “If Twitter is misrepresenting how many accounts are fake to drive up their revenue, I have a duty to protect Texans.”
Paxton’s letter to Twitter came on the same day that Elon Musk, who is threatening to pull out of the deal to buy the platform, addressed a letter to the company as well.
In the letter, Musk’s lawyer requested Twitter user data so that Musk could perform his own analysis of the company.
Since late April, when Twitter revealed that it had accepted Musk’s $44 billion offer to buy the platform, Musk has expressed increasing worry about the number of bots on the site.
“Twitter has, in fact, refused to provide the information that Mr. Musk has repeatedly requested since May 9, 2022, to facilitate his evaluation of spam and fake accounts on the company’s platform,” said Mike Ringler, Musk’s attorney.
Bots are non-human accounts on Twitter that can send tweets, follow other users, and like and retweet others’ content. Spam accounts increase followers and reach and frequently promote dishonest and irritating behavior.
These accounts can hurt Texas consumers and businesses by lowering the quality of users’ experiences on the platform and inflating the company’s worth and the price of doing business with it.
Paxton has given Twitter until June 27 to comply with his demand.