Iger’s words seem to echo similar concerns Elon Musk expressed regarding his attempt to acquire Twitter. Iger said at an appearance Wednesday at the Code Conference that bots played a significant role in the company’s decision to end its exploration of acquiring Twitter. The company had entered negotiations to purchase Twitter in 2016, but it pulled out months before the 2016 election.
“We, at that point, estimated with some of Twitter’s help that a substantial portion, not a majority, were not real,” Iger said. “I don’t remember the number, but we discounted the value heavily. But that was built into our economics. Actually, the deal that we had was pretty cheap.”
Disney and Iger had viewed Twitter as a “global distribution platform” that could help the company spread its products worldwide.
However, something made Iger pull out of the deal. “After we sold the whole concept to the Disney board and the Twitter board, and we’re really ready to execute — the negotiation was just about done — I went home, contemplated it for a weekend, and thought, ‘I’m not looking at this as carefully as I need to look at it,'” he added. “Yes, it’s a great solution from a distribution perspective. 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.”
Iger also noted that the hate speech on Twitter played a part in the decision to withdraw from the deal. “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,” the ex-CEO said.
The actual number of false accounts, also known as “bots,” on Twitter has been a constant source of contention between the social media giant and Musk, who pulled out of his merger over allegations of inaccurate estimates of spam bots.
Twitter’s and Musk’s legal teams are scheduled to meet from Oct. 17 to Oct. 21 for an expedited trial over Twitter’s lawsuit about Musk’s termination of the deal. The two parties have filed multiple subpoenas seeking information regarding Twitter’s practices and Musk’s finances. Twitter filed multiple subpoenas to Musk’s compatriots for documentation discussing the funding of Musk’s planned $44 billion acquisition of the company. Musk himself filed a subpoena against former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey while seeking information about his time at the company.
The two parties have clashed over definitions and whether Twitter had been deceptive. While Musk alleges that more than 5% of users are bots, the platform has not challenged this claim. Instead, they have focused on the number of “monetizable daily active users,” which fits a much stricter category of spam accounts than what Musk has pursued, leading to the two parties relying on separate definitions.
Musk attempted to delay the trial by a month, only for the judge overseeing the trial in the Delaware Court of Chancery to reject the request due to allegations that an excess delay could cause irreparable harm to Twitter as a company.
Iger stepped down from his position at Disney in Feb. 2020, a month before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, after serving as the company’s CEO for 15 years.