For three years in a row, Twitter overstated the number of daily users on its service, overcounting by up to 1.9 million users per quarter.
Twitter inadvertently counted multiple accounts as active when they were all linked to a single user, even if they weren’t all in use. These incorrect usage figures were provided for the first quarter of 2019 through the fourth quarter of 2021.
This isn’t the first time Twitter has done something like this. Twitter also admitted in 2017 that it had been overstating its user figures by 1 million to 2 million users for the previous three years. Twitter’s earnings report for the first quarter of 2022 revealed the repeat error today.
The updated figures aren’t exactly game-changers: Twitter now has 229 million daily users, up more than 10 million from the previous quarter’s inflated figure. They are, however, one final embarrassing blunder for Twitter as it negotiates a deal to be taken private, at which point it will no longer be required to share these figures publicly.
Twitter reported an operating loss of $128 million on revenue of $1.2 billion, both of which were in line with the company’s own forecast for the quarter. Revenue increased 16 percent year on year, owing to “headwinds associated with the war in Ukraine,” according to Twitter.
Twitter accepted Elon Musk’s buyout offer on Monday, agreeing to give him control of the company in exchange for $44 billion. The transaction is expected to be completed later this year.
Because of the impending sale, Twitter says it will no longer provide performance guidance and will “withdraw all previously provided goals and outlook.”
Musk has made vague statements about how he plans to change Twitter, promising to “enhanc[e] the product with new features,” open-source its algorithms, crackdown on spambots, and verify all users. He’s also harped on turning it into a platform for free speech, raising questions about how he’ll oversee moderation on the platform.
Specifically, Musk has stated that purchasing Twitter “is not a way to make money.” The company has never made a lot of money, and Musk has stated repeatedly that he wants to make changes to Twitter so that it can continue to be a “de facto town square.”
Prior to the agreement, some Twitter employees publicly expressed concern about Musk’s potential takeover, and Musk has only confirmed their fears in the last few days as he continues to tweet critically about the company’s decisions. His criticism of Twitter policy leader Vijaya Gadde, in particular, has resulted in harassment from other site users.
Twitter was scheduled to hold a conference call with investors today to discuss the company’s earnings report, but the event was canceled “in light of the pending transaction.” If the deal goes through, today’s earnings would be one of the company’s final public earnings releases.