Elon Musk says his $44-billion takeover of Twitter can’t move forward until the company shows him proof that less than 5% of the platform’s accounts are fake or spam.

Musk insisted — by tweet, natch — that the actual percentage of automated bot accounts “could be much higher.”

“Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of 5%,” the Tesla CEO said. “This deal cannot move forward until he does.”

Any Twitter user can attest that the social-media platform has lots and lots of bots. They’ve become a key tool of disinformation and propaganda.

So what is Musk playing at?

While no one except the world’s richest person can answer that, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if he isn’t laying the groundwork to renegotiate his sky-high acquisition bid in light of recent declines in Twitter’s market value.

Musk offered more than $54 a share for the company. As of Tuesday, the company’s shares were trading closer to $38.

Which is to say, with each passing day, the deal becomes less and less favorable to Musk (and more favorable to Twitter shareholders).

One would have thought that Musk, or his lawyers, would have done extensive due diligence before offering mega-bucks for the company. As such, he should be well aware of Twitter’s bot problem.

For the moment, however, Musk is gobsmacked to discover that not everyone on Twitter is real.