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Botometer creator says Musk’s Twitter spam estimate “doesn’t mean anything”

In this photo illustration, Elon Musk's official Twitter profile seen on a computer screen through a magnifying glass.

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One of the creators of the Botometer—a web tool Elon Musk used to estimate Twitter’s spam percentage for a court filing—has reportedly said that Musk’s calculation “doesn’t mean anything.” Kai-Cheng Yang, a Ph.D. candidate at Indiana University, “questioned the methodology used by Mr Musk’s team and told the BBC they had not approached him before using the tool,” a BBC article said today.

A Musk court filing on August 4 claimed a Botometer analysis of Twitter firehose data in the first week of July “shows that, during that timeframe, false or spam accounts accounted for 33 percent of visible accounts.” But as Yang pointed out, the Botometer provides scores from 0 to 5—with 5 being the most bot-like—and Musk’s court filing didn’t say where he set the cutoff between human and bot.

“In order to estimate the prevalence [of bots] you need to choose a threshold to cut the score,” Yang told the BBC. “If you change the threshold from a three to a two then you will get more bots and less human.” Because Musk’s court filing “doesn’t make the details clear,” Musk “has the freedom to do whatever he wants. So the number to me, it doesn’t mean anything,” Yang said.

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