Elon Musk, the richest man in the world and Tesla CEO, has purchased social network Twitter for $54,20 per share, valuing it at around $44 billion or €41 billion.
As the new owner of the platform, he pledges to make Twitter the “platform for freedom of expression in the world”, as he considers restrictions on what can and cannot be said on social media as a threat to democracy.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk wrote in a press release.
🚀💫♥️ Yesss!!! ♥️💫🚀 pic.twitter.com/0T9HzUHuh6— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 25, 2022
Musk had already acquired a 9.2% stake in Twitter on 4 April, after which the company’s stock price surged by about 30%. Twitter’s chief executive Parag Agrawal then announced that Musk had been appointed to the company’s board of directors, which would limit his ownership to no more than 14.9%.
However, Musk announced his decision to decline the board seat on 9 April, followed by his takeover bid on 14 April to buy the entire company and take it private. He called his offer of $54.20 his “best and final offer.”
Twitter adopted a so-called “poison pill” plan a day after Musk’s offer to buy the company, which the board unanimously voted in favour of.
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The structure would come into action if any person or group would acquire at least 15% of Twitter’s stock without the board’s approval. If that were to happen, other shareholders – excluding the largest shareholder owning 15% – would be able to purchase additional shares, making it more expensive for the largest shareholder to increase their stake in the company.
Nonetheless, Twitter accepted Elon Musk’s bid to take over the company on Monday.
Jack Dorsey, co-founder and former CEO of the platform, said that despite his belief that no one should own or run Twitter, “Elon is the singular solution I trust” in a tweet.
In principle, I don’t believe anyone should own or run Twitter. It wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company. Solving for the problem of it being a company however, Elon is the singular solution I trust. I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness.— jack⚡️ (@jack) April 26, 2022
Meanwhile, the Director of Product Management for Societal Health at Twitter, Edward Perez, said it was “a time of genuine discomfort & uncertainty” in a tweet, saying he hopes the new owner understands that the company has a deep responsibility to society.
I can’t speak for all @Twitter employees; I can only speak for myself: It's a time of genuine discomfort & uncertainty.Most of us believe deeply that Twitter is much more than a tech platform; we have a deep responsibility to society. I hope our new owner gets that. https://t.co/DY1nBEG4Dt — Edward Perez (@eddie1perez) April 25, 2022
Some of Twitter’s employees messaged on the company’s internal Slack messaging channel that they planned on resigning, Wall Street Journal reported.
There are also increasing concerns that Elon Musk will allow the banned former US President Donald Trump back onto the platform. MSNBC have reported that Biden officials are currently concerned about Musk's Twitter takeover given that Trump is planning to run again as President in 2024.
Musk believes everyone should be able to say what they want on Twitter, without censorship or being permanently blocked.
Even if he has previously said that by “free speech” he means everything legal, having absolute free speech on Twitter can be seen as shortsighted, particularly when large social media companies are currently being held to account for harbouring hate speech, conspiracies and fake news.
With big tech being forced to take responsibility for the information circulating on their platforms, only time can tell how this policy will work out.
Musk is also planning to make Twitter “better than ever” by enhancing new features, such as making the algorithms open-source, defeating spambots and authenticating all human users. While experts have said open-source algorithms are a long shot, Musk believes it should be transparent to users to see how the algorithm decides what shows up on their feed and how it distributes content.
With millions of bot accounts, Musk also wants to defeat fake accounts using AI techniques to identify them and having each Twitter user verify and authenticate their identity.
Twitter should officially be in the hands of Musk by the end of 2022.