Bob Iger reveals bots were already an issue when Disney tried to buy Twitter

Solen Feyissa, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Former Disney CEO Bob Iger can relate to Elon Musk and his decision to back out of his Twitter acquisition deal. This was because Disney had tried to purchase Twitter before, and even then, bots were already seen as an issue on the platform. 

Iger recently shared his experiences during an interview at the Code Conference. While Disney’s attempt to purchase Twitter in 2016 had been known for some time as it was part of Iger’s 2019 memoir, the former Disney CEO shared more details about the deal in his recent interview. As noted by Iger, Twitter would have been a pretty great distribution platform for Disney, but it simply had too many headaches that came with it. 

Among these were bots. Iger noted that while Disney didn’t estimate then that most of Twitter’s users were not real people, the entertainment giant, with Twitter’s help, came to the conclusion that a substantial portion of the social media platform’s users were not real. This discounted the value of Twitter by a pretty notable margin. 

But while bots could be seen as a given for a social media company, the prevalent hate speech that happens on Twitter ultimately pushed Disney to pull the plug on its acquisition attempt. A platform that has the potential to do much harm and contains so much toxicity, after all, is pretty off-brand for a company like Disney, which is aimed at providing fun to as many people as possible. 

Following is Bob Iger’s statement on the matter, as per Vox

“We were intent on going into the streaming business. We needed a technology solution. We have all this great IP. We weren’t a technology company. How do we get that IP to consumers around the world? And we were kicking tires left and right. We thought about developing ourselves. Five years, $500 million. It wasn’t the money. It was the time because the world was changing fast. And at the same time, we heard that Twitter was contemplating a sale.

“We enter the process immediately, looking at Twitter as the solution: a global distribution platform. It was viewed as sort of a social network. We were viewing it as something completely different. We could put news, sports, entertainment, (and) reach the world. And frankly, it would have been a phenomenal solution, distribution-wise.

“Then, 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.’ 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.

“Interestingly enough, because I read the news these days, we did look very carefully at all of the Twitter users — I guess they’re called users? — and we, at that point, estimated with some of Twitter’s help that a substantial portion — not a majority — were not real. 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.

“Then you have to look, of course, at all the hate speech and potential to do as much harm as good. 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 said.

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Bob Iger reveals bots were already an issue when Disney tried to buy Twitter
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