By Dawn Chmielewski and Sheila Dang
(Reuters) – Former Disney CEO Bob Iger said on Wednesday the entertainment giant had determined that a “substantial portion” of Twitter’s users were “not real” in 2016, when Disney was weighing a purchase of the social network.
Iger said the Walt Disney Co and Twitter Inc boards were prepared to enter negotiations when he got cold feet. He said that, with Twitter’s help, Disney had learned that “a substantial portion – not a majority -” of users were fake.
“I remember discounting the value” as a result, Iger said, in remarks at the Code Conference in Beverly Hills, California.
Iger did not specify what he meant by “substantial.” Twitter has consistently reported that fewer than 5% of its “monetizable” daily users are bot or spam accounts.
Iger’s comments come amid a legal battle between billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk and Twitter over Musk’s deal to buy the social media company for $44 billion. Musk, who is trying to walk away from the deal, has claimed that Twitter has misrepresented the prevalence of spam or bot accounts on the platform.
Iger did not mention Musk by name in his remarks on Wednesday, but he did say: “Interestingly enough, because I read the news these days, we did look very carefully at all of the Twitter users,” before going on to say that ” a substantial portion” of Twitter users “were not real.”
In his memoir, “The Ride of a Lifetime,” Iger wrote that he had second thoughts about a deal with Twitter because of the “nastiness” of the discourse on Twitter that he feared would become a distraction.
Twitter has sued Musk to hold him to the deal, and the trial is to begin on Oct. 17.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Dawn Chmielewski in Beverly Hills, California, and Sheila Dang in Dallas; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Leslie Adler)