Elon Musk recently bought Twitter for $54.20 per share, a 38% premium above the company’s stock price before it was revealed that he had been buying it up. Musk acquired Twitter for $48 billion on April 24, becoming the world’s richest person to do so. The popular social network is frequented by world leaders, celebrities, and cultural trendsetters. This constitutes the largest deal in at least two decades.
In a statement announcing the deal, Musk said: “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. Twitter has tremendous potential — I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it.”
The purchase, which has received full board approval, is likely to finalize this year, subject to a vote of Twitter shareholders and regulatory approvals. This has been in the works for a while, as Musk has been buying shares in Twitter for the past month.
The historic agreement brings to a close what had appeared to be an implausible endeavor by Mr. Musk to acquire the social media business — and instantly raises questions about what he would do with the platform and how his actions will impact global online expression.
The billionaire, who has over 91 million Twitter followers and has romped through the network hurling insults and jokes, has stated repeatedly that he wants to “change” the platform by encouraging greater free speech, and allowing users more control over what they see. Musk could work on the service away from the prying eyes of investors, regulators, and others by making the company private.
However, there will very certainly be a lot more scrutiny. Twitter may not be the most popular social media network (it has more than 217 million daily users, compared to billions for Facebook and Instagram), but it has played a significant role in defining global narratives. Politicians have used it as a megaphone, while businesses, celebrities, and others have utilized it to build their image and brand.
Twitter has become a lightning rod for controversy in recent years, as some users have propagated disinformation and other negative content on the platform. Before being banned from Twitter after the January 6 incident at the Capitol last year, former President Donald J. Trump routinely used the platform to criticize and inflame. In order to deal with unanticipated scenarios, the organization has been compelled to adopt policies on the fly on several occasions.
Twitter’s chairman, Bret Taylor, said in a statement that the board had “conducted a thoughtful and comprehensive process to assess Elon’s proposal with a deliberate focus on value, certainty, and financing. The proposed transaction will deliver a substantial cash premium, and we believe it is the best path forward for Twitter’s stockholders.”
Musk has had a tumultuous history with online expression. He tried to shut down a Twitter account that followed his private jet’s movements this year, citing personal and safety concerns. He wrote last month that he hoped his harshest detractors would stay on Twitter because that is what free speech is all about.
It’s unclear how hands-on Musk intends to be at Twitter. One of the unknown questions is who he would choose to oversee the company and how active he would be in the day-to-day operations.
In other news, Twitter can now identify automated accounts as “good bots.”
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