Former Disney CEO reveals early interest in Twitter, says ‘bots’ stopped deal – much like Elon Musk

In a validation for Tesla CEO Elon Musk, former Disney CEO Bob Iger claims the company did not purchase Twitter in 2016 because of “bots” on the social media platform while asserting that “hate speech” also played a factor in the decision not to buy.

Iger made the revelation to attendees at the Vox Code Conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, the New York Post reported. He spoke about how Disney viewed Twitter and why the company eventually backed out of the deal.

When Iger and other powerbrokers at Disney heard that Twitter was up for sale, they began the acquisition process “immediately.”

“We were intent on going into the streaming business,” he stated during the conference. “We were viewing it as something completely different. We could put news, sports, entertainment, [and] reach the world.”

The potential purchase had its upside and downside. Iger “contemplated it for a weekend” before making his decision and noted at the time, “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,” Iger remarked. “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.”

The bot count was a determining factor for Disney just as it was for Musk. Iger said that Disney “estimated” that there were a large number of bots, though he claimed they were “not a majority,” according to the Post.

“I don’t remember the number but we discounted the value heavily,” Iger said, echoing contentions by the SpaceX mogul. “But that was built into our economics. Actually, the deal that we had was pretty cheap.”

“Then you have to look, of course, at all the hate speech and potential to do as much harm as good,” he posited. “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,” Iger concluded.

In the former Disney CEO’s 2019 memoir “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company,” Iger noted that the boards of both companies came to a deal, but he decided to pull out because of the “nastiness” that was rampant on the site.

Iger’s revelation appears to give credence to Musk’s claim that Twitter massively downplayed the presence of bots on the social media platform during his negotiations to buy the company for $44 billion. Twitter sued Musk after he sought to terminate the agreement and the saga is still playing out in court.

Twitter claims that fewer than 5 percent of its “monetizable” daily users are bots, though many out there assert that’s incorrect.

Twitter whistleblower Peiter Zatko, who is the company’s former head of security, alleged via a complaint to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the social media company showed no interest in finding out how many bots were on the platform. He also charged that Twitter couldn’t figure out how many bots were on the site even if it wanted to because it doesn’t have the resources to do so, according to Gizmodo.

On Wednesday, Delaware Chancellor Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick allowed Musk and his legal team to add Zatko’s whistleblower complaint to the case. The former Twitter employee has been subpoenaed by Musk’s legal team and he has agreed to testify, which could spell very bad news for the social media platform.

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