Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk purchased Twitter for $44 billion on April 25, 2022. This comes after a series of negotiations between the entrepreneur and Twitter’s board.
Originally, Twitter viewed the attempt to buy the company from Musk as a threat, issuing countermeasures against a hostile takeover in the event that Musk bought a larger stake in the company. Musk owned 9% of the company’s shares as of January, and Twitter planned to initiate a “poison pill” defense if Musk’s shares increased to 15%. Musk eventually was able to allocate a whopping $46.5 billion to purchase the company; $25.5 billion of this came from debt financing from Morgan Stanley among other firms, while the remaining $21 billion came from equity financing—in other words, cold hard cash.
Following negotiations, Twitter agreed to give ownership to Musk for $54.20 per share. Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, has expressed a desire to take Twitter private, as well as overhaul its algorithms and terms of service to better align with these views.
“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 informed the public in a statement released Monday. He also praised Twitter’s “tremendous potential” and is looking to work with users to help “unlock it.”
Some of Musk’s promises, such as making Twitter’s algorithms more transparent and open source along with curtailing the prevalence of robotic accounts on the site, have been met with praise. But many have speculated about how far Musk’s free speech absolutism will go, and it has been met with mixed reviews. Rather than outright bans for violations of the terms and conditions, Musk has said he would prefer “time-outs,” stressing the need for “there to be an inclusive arena of free speech.”
Approval of the deal has generally come from the right side of the aisle, as conservatives took to Twitter to celebrate. Representative Jim Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, tweeted, “Free speech is making a comeback.” Many allies of former President Donald Trump believe this changing of the guard will allow him to return to the platform. Trump was removed from Twitter in January 2021 for violating Twitter’s terms of service following the January 6th storming of the Capitol. The former President, however, said in a statement to Fox News that he would not be returning to the platform, instead doubling down on his commitment to Truth Social, a social media network he founded in late 2021 to act as a rival to Twitter.
Democrats have reacted to this deal with greater hesitation, with Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts going so far as to call it “dangerous for our democracy.” Human rights groups, including the Human Rights Watch, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Amnesty International, all added to the chorus of concern about the implications of such a takeover. The ability of the company to be taken private, paired with Musk’s devotion to absolute free speech, increases the chance of hate speech finding a home on the platform and going unnoticed, or even supported.
Former CEO and Co-Founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, supported the decision of Twitter’s Board to make the deal with Musk, expressing his disdain that the company had quickly become controlled by Wall Street and ad revenues.
“Twitter as a company has always been my sole issue and my biggest regret,” Dorsey stated on Twitter. “It has been owned by Wall Street and the ad model. Taking it back from Wall Street is the correct first step.”
Despite only being one tenth the size of Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta Platforms Inc., Twitter has played an increasingly large role in popular culture and world events since its founding in 2006. In addition to Trump’s heavy use of the site, Twitter is also credited for being one of the catalysts behind the Arab Spring movements from 2010-2012, and has provided easy access to groundbreaking events across the world for millions of people.