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Why Has Elon Musk Bought Twitter?

Twitter has accepted Elon Musk’s $44billion bid to buy the social media giant, with the Tesla and SpaceX boss pledging to boost free speech on the platform so it can fulfil its potential as the world’s ‘digital town square’.

Mr Musk, the world’s wealthiest person and a prolific Twitter user, has a controversial past with the app, and his decision to take the company private is likely to have substantial ramifications for a service used by more than 300million people, including many world leaders.

Below, we answer key questions about Musk’s intentions towards Twitter, how people have reacted to his decision to buy the platform, and the site’s future under its controversial and colourful new owner. 

Why has Elon Musk bought Twitter?

The business tycoon, who is worth $267 billion, has more than 84million followers on Twitter and tweets several times a day. 

The site allows users to post and interact with messages known as ‘tweets’. Registered users can post, like, and retweet tweets, but unregistered users can only read those that are publicly available 

He insists his takeover is not motivated by economic reasons, but rather out of a desire to safeguard Twitter as a venue for free speech rather than censorship. 

‘Having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization. I don’t care about the economics at all,’ he said in a recent public talk.  

What does he say is wrong with the site?

The billionaire self-identifies as a ‘free speech absolutist’ and believes Twitter has failed to live up to its free speech principles.

He has been critical of its content moderation policies, arguing it has censored some voices, particularly conservative ones. 

He slammed the site in a barrage of tweets last month. 

‘Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?’ Musk asked via a Twitter poll. 

He followed up with a series of tweets a day later, writing: ‘Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.

What should be done?’

A Twitter user asked if he would consider ‘building a new social media platform… where free speech and adhering to free speech is given top priority’. 

In response to the suggestion, Musk replied: ‘Am giving serious thought to this.’  

Musk appeared to criticise Twitter’s permanent ban of President Donald Trump last year for messages that the tech company said helped incite the January 6 riots at the US Capitol last year.

‘A lot of people are going to be super unhappy with West Coast high tech as the de facto arbiter of free speech,’ Musk tweeted days after Trump was banned from both Facebook and Twitter.      

Who is celebrating his takeover and why? 

Musk’s view that Twitter excessively censors some of its users is popular on the political right, with many conservatives, particularly in the United States, believing they are currently unfairly targeted by social media platforms.

Podcaster Joe Rogan previously said he was ‘excited’ about the prospect of Musk taking over, calling him a ‘super-intelligent leader-type character that seems to have great ethics and morals too’.  

The Tesla boss also received some effusive, if highly abstract, praise from an unexpected quarter – Twitter co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey. 

He praised Musk’s decision to take Twitter ‘ back from Wall Street ‘ and tweeted that he trusts Musk’s mission to ‘ extend the light of consciousness ‘ – a reference to Dorsey’s notion that ‘Twitter is the closest thing we have to a global consciousness.’ 

Who is unhappy and why? 

‘Woke warriors’ and their pet Left-wing organisations have lashed out at the deal and raised concerns Musk’s stout defence of free speech will allow ‘hate to flourish’. 

All In The Family star Rob Reiner, star of 1970s sitcom All In The Family, said he was troubled by the possible return to Twitter of Donald Trump under Musk’s leadership.

‘Now that Elon Musk is buying Twitter, the question for all of us is: Will he allow a Criminal who used this platform to lie and spread disinformation to try to overthrow the US Government to return and continue his Criminal activity?

‘And if he does, how do we combat it?’

Reiner appeared to be referring to Donald Trump, who was banned by Twitter in January 2021 after being accused of stoking the Capitol riot. Many left-wing tweeters fear Musk’s purchase of the firm could spell the return of Trump.

Actress turned activist Mia Farrow tweeted: ‘Well if Twitter becomes even more toxic- with Trumpy-treasonous lies & all the hatred- it will be taken less seriously, and people like me will quit – for peace of mind’. Amid a backlash from Twitter users, one critic said: ‘Do people who quit Twitter over Elon Musk HAVE TO tell everybody? Can’t they just leave?’ 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has even weighed into the Musk debate with a thinly veiled criticism of the Tesla boss – but was urged by followers to concentrate on tackling the capital’s problems with knife crime.

He tweeted: ‘Freedom of speech is vital, but free speech does not mean a free pass for hatred. Online hate speech fans the flames of prejudice and leads to appalling and tragic real-world violence. Social media companies must do more, not less, to protect their communities’.

Human rights groups also raised concerns about the deal, with Amnesty International saying it was concerned about any potential decision that Twitter may take after Musk’s takeover to take a laxer approach to tackling hate speech.

Anthony Romero, executive director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said while he acknowledged the tycoon was a ‘card-carrying member’ of his organisation, ‘there is a lot of danger having so much power in the hands of any one individual’. 

Rivals of Tesla have thrown their toys out of the pram, despite Musk insisting his acquisition is about free speech over profits.

Henrik Fisker, the Danish CEO of the electric vehicle maker Fisker, deleted his Twitter account shortly after the company confirmed that Elon Musk acquired 100% of the company. Henrik tweeted: ‘Please follow me on IG (Instagram) from now on if you want any updates. Thanks’, using the hashtag #love. 

The business tycoon, who is worth $267 billion, has more than 84million followers on Twitter and tweets several times a day

The business tycoon, who is worth $267 billion, has more than 84million followers on Twitter and tweets several times a day

Which users are threatening to leave?

British actress Jameela Jamil led the charge of celebrities announcing they would abandon Twitter after Musk’s purchase, declaring that she would no longer be tweeting because his ‘free speech bid’ would end in ‘lawless hate, bigotry and misogyny’.

‘Ah he got twitter,’ she said. ‘I would like this to be my what lies here as my last tweet. Just really *any* excuse to show pics of Barold,’ she added, attaching a photo of the poodle mix she shares with her boyfriend, musician James Blake.

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‘I fear this free speech bid is going to help this hell platform reach its final form of totally lawless hate, bigotry, and misogyny. Best of luck.’ 

Actress turned activist Mia Farrow tweeted: ‘Well if Twitter becomes even more toxic- with Trumpy-treasonous lies & all the hatred- it will be taken less seriously, and people like me will quit – for peace of mind’. Amid a backlash from Twitter users, one critic said: ‘Do people who quit Twitter over Elon Musk HAVE TO tell everybody? Can’t they just leave?’ 

Will they really?

It seems unlikely. Jamil has since been widely-mocked by people in her replies claiming that she’s far too much of an attention-seeker to stay off the platform. 

And after amassing one million followers, she would be sacrificing a major public platform. 

Some may also note that celebrities announcing their plan to leave Twitter have done so on the platform itself.  

What will happen to Twitter now?

In recent weeks, Musk has proposed relaxing Twitter content restrictions, while ridding the platform of fake ‘spambot’ accounts and shifting away from advertising as its primary revenue model. 

Musk believes he can increase revenue through subscriptions that give paying customers a better experience – possibly even an ad-free version of Twitter.

Asked during a recent TED interview if there are any limits to his notion of ‘free speech,’ Musk said Twitter would abide by national laws that restrict speech around the world. 

Beyond that, he said, he’d be ‘very reluctant’ to delete posts or permanently banning users who violate the company’s rules. He is said to instead favour temporary ‘timeouts’ for users who break the new rules.

One issue that has been at the forefront of the debate around Twitter and censorship has been the story about  Hunter Biden’s infamous laptop. 

Twitter initially froze the New York Post’s main account after it published an article about the scandal and demanded it delete tweets linking to the Biden articles. 

It initially justified the ban by citing a prohibition of distributing hacked material, before backing down when the story was proven to be legitimate.  

Musk has also announced a plan to make the site’s algorithms open source – meaning the code used to build them would be publicly accessible to allow users to see how certain posts were served to them in their timelines.

He said he wants to do this in the name of trust, and that this model is better than having tweets be ‘mysteriously promoted or demoted’.

However, some experts have already suggested there are limitations to this plan simply because very few people will be able to understand how the code being used in these systems produces the results they do, even if the move would be a clear step forward for general transparency.   

Will users stay anonymous?

Musk’s campaign against spam bots could leave anonymous users facing extra scrutiny, but it is not clear he has any plans to force everyone to disclose their real names.  

The Electronic Frontiers Foundation has said any move to do so would harm political dissidents, saying: ‘Pseudonymity and anonymity are essential to protecting users who may have opinions, identities, or interests that do not align with those in power. 

‘Political dissidents may be in grave danger if those in power are able to discover their true identities.’  

Will Donald Trump come back?

Musk has previously backed the idea of Trump being allowed back onto Twitter after he was suspended following the riots on Capitol Hill – but the former president has ruled out the idea of him returning. 

He’s instead sticking to his own app, TRUTH Social, whose popularity sputtered after a surge of interest during its glitch-ridden debut on Apple’s App Store. It’s still not available for Android users.

And despite not having posted since the platform’s launch roughly two months ago, the ex-president told Fox News he’d be a regular user within as little as a week.

‘I am not going on Twitter, I am going to stay on TRUTH,’ Trump told the outlet. ‘I hope Elon buys Twitter because he’ll make improvements to it and he is a good man, but I am going to be staying on TRUTH.’

A spokesman for Trump confirmed his intentions.

Trump claimed his app was getting a ‘better’ response than social media giant Twitter, though he did not appear to elaborate on how.

‘We’re taking in millions of people, and what we’re finding is that the response on TRUTH is much better than being on Twitter,’ the ex-president said. ‘Twitter has bots and fake accounts, and we are doing everything we can.’ 

Musk has previously backed the idea of Trump being allowed back onto Twitter after he was suspended following the riots on Capitol Hill - but the former president has ruled out the idea of him returning

Musk has previously backed the idea of Trump being allowed back onto Twitter after he was suspended following the riots on Capitol Hill – but the former president has ruled out the idea of him returning

Who else has been banned? 

Infowars host Alex Jones was banned from the platform for abusive behaviour, including spreading vile conspiracy theories about 9/11 and the Sandy Hook shootings which killed 20 schoolchildren, claiming their deaths were a ‘giant hoax’. 

Fox News host Tucker Carlson returned to Twitter just hours after Musk’s deal was announced, with the presenter tweeting ‘we’re back!’ to announced his return. 

Carlson was suspended from the platform last month after Twitter determined he violated its rules by referring to Assistant Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine, who is a transgender woman, as a man. 

Other people who have been banned include right-wing provocateurs Milo Yiannopoulos, Jacob Wohl and Tim Gionet, better known by his online name ‘Baked Alaska’. 

Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon has also has his account suspended, as has Republican strategist Roger Stone and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. 

Who has NOT been banned?

Twitter generated huge controversy by announcing its decision not to ban the Taliban, despite the group being responsible for numerous atrocities. 

The move was in stark contrast to the company’s Big Tech rivals. Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram (both owned by Facebook), TikTok and YouTube have all banned and terminated accounts that are related to, promote or praise the Taliban. 

Twitter said in a statement that it would ‘continue to proactively enforce our rules and review content that may violate Twitter rules, specifically policies against glorification of violence, platform manipulation and spam.’

The social media giant used this justification to permanently ban Donald Trump after the January 6 Capitol Riot, causing cries of censorship from Trump supporters. 

Why has Jeff Bezos weighed in?

The Amazon founder yesterday suggested his fellow billionaire could be making Twitter vulnerable to pressure from China due to his extensive business liabilities in the country. 

He commented above a retweet from a New York Times journalist, which noted how exposed Tesla was to China, which is the electric car company’s second largest market. 

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‘Interesting question,’ mused Bezos, who in 2013 bought The Washington Post with a view to protecting free speech and supporting journalism. ‘Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?’ 

Twitter is banned in China by the country’s authoritarian communist government, but there are fears the CCP could try and exert influence to stop users from abroad criticising its government.

Bezos spoke hours after Musk sealed his $44 billion deal to take over Twitter. Several hours later he moderated his barbed question and heaped praise on Musk instead. 

‘My own answer to this question is probably not. The more likely outcome in this regard is complexity in China for Tesla, rather than censorship at Twitter,’ he tweeted.

‘But we’ll see. Musk is extremely good at navigating this kind of complexity.’  

Why are some Twitter employees unhappy?

Like most of Silicon Valley, employees of Twitter generally lean to the left, making them immediately more likely to be sceptical of Musk than those on the right. 

Among those whining about the takeover was software engineer Addison Howenstine, who suggested his new boss could be ‘dangerous for democracy’. 

Then there is the issue of job security and the new working environment under Musk. 

While Twitter has guaranteed staff their jobs for the next six months and said ‘no layoffs are planned’, once the Tesla boss takes over any HR decisions will be up to him. 

Gerard Taylor, a senior software engineer, reflected widely held concerns about Twitter employees when he tweeted how its ‘company culture’ could change under Musk.   

Twitter staff immediately began complaining about Musk’s takeover, including software engineer Geraint Davies 

Chloe Barnes, Twitter’s lead for global curation standards, added: ‘Totally understand that this is entertainment for some. But please know that this is certainly not entertainment for me’ 

Will they have to return to the office? 

Twitter currently has an option for staff to work from home, and internal messaging boards are now alight with fears Musk will now axe the policy. 

The entrepreneur has a contradictory approach to WFH, lashing out at stay-at-home orders during the early days of the pandemic and reopening his factories in the face of official opposition, but later saying staff did not have to come in if they felt uncomfortable about doing so. 

Musk is well known as a micromanager who has regularly slept on the floor of his factories, so he may become frustrated if he feels staff are not showing similar dedication. 

The firm’s downtown San Francisco could also be turned into a homeless shelter at Musk’s behest, with the California city engulfed by one of the worst homelessness crisis in the United States. 

Can Musk keep Twitter running?

Twitter investors have for years been concerned with the company’s slowing revenue growth. 

Its last quarterly results showed revenue had grown slower than expected, despite increasing by 22% to $1.6bn in the last three months of 2021. 

However, daily active users rose by 25 million in the year to 217 million, and the company aims to hit 315m by the end of next year. 

Despite some headwinds, Musk’s huge $264.6bn fortune looks perfectly capable of financing Twitter long into the future, while his his claim ‘not to care about the economics’ of the site should also reassure fans.   

How could the deal affect Tesla? 

Musk’s Twitter purchase has raised concerns about the fate of his more valuable company, electric carmaker Tesla, in case his attention is further divided by the social media platform.

Some analysts fear that a man who acknowledged sleeping on the factory floor during the launch of the Model 3 sedan and last year talked of working ‘crazy hours’ only has so much energy to spare.

‘Tesla feels very much like a startup despite it being a trillion dollar company,’ said Tesla investor Ross Gerber, chief executive of wealth management firm Gerber Kawasaki. ‘It’s as big or bigger than the biggest companies in the world, but it doesn’t have the management infrastructure like other companies.’

On top of that, Tesla is racing to boost production at new plants in Texas and Berlin amid supply-chain snarls and higher raw materials costs, as well as get work at its biggest factory in Shanghai back on track during a spike in Covid cases there. Musk said in January Tesla had too much on its plate and would not introduce new models like Cybertruck this year.

Tesla has managed to outrace its problems, but a heavier pull of his focus by Twitter worries investors.

‘I fear this is going to be a distraction,’ said one fund manager with a significant position in Tesla who asked not to be identified. ‘He’s juggling supply chains and factory delays and the expansion of the energy storage business and this doesn’t fit at all.’

Shares of Tesla have slid 8% since Musk first disclosed his initial stake in Twitter.  

How is Musk financing the deal? 

To purchase Twitter, Musk has raised $25.5bn in debt, including a margin loan of $12.5bn against his shares in Tesla, from a group of banks led by Wall Street bank Morgan Stanley. 

He has also vowed to provide $21bn in equity financing for the takeover, which leaves him on the hook for more than 70% of the purchase price unless he finds other backers.

Musk has a total net worth of $264.6bn, so his $44billion bid represents just a small slice of his fortune. 

Could US financial regulators stop it from going ahead? 

Regulators could block the deal if Musk fails to deliver on the equity component of the transaction. 

He is currently in talks with several wealthy individuals and institutional investors about backing that portion of his bid, sources told the FT. 

What challenges could Musk face as Twitter owner? 

Governments and regulators around the world, including the UK, are putting new laws in place to clamp down on harmful content online – with substantial implications for Twitter, even before this takeover.

Under the rules of the UK’s proposed Online Safety Bill, companies could face massive fines or have access to their sites blocked if they fail to stop the spread of violent, abusive material, as well as hate speech and other content.

There are even plans to hold company executives criminally liable for rules breaches in some cases.

The biggest issue for Twitter under Musk with these new rules could be through so-called ‘legal but harmful’ content.

This refers to content that in itself is legal but could be harmful when users encounter it and therefore should be taken down.

Under Mr Musk’s proposed free speech model, this could become a key area of friction between the site and regulators in the UK.

Source: dailymail

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