Elon Musk

Elon Musk buys Twitter for £35bn, provoking speculation about the platform’s future

Image credit: Reuters

Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has welcomed Musk's takeover as “the singular solution I trust”.

Twitter's board has unanimously accepted the offer from Tesla co-founder and multi-billionaire Elon Musk to acquire the company in a $44bn (£34.5bn) all-cash deal, the largest such acquisition to take a company private in at least two decades.

Musk made the shock bid less than two weeks ago, just days after it was announced that he would not be joining the social media platform’s board of directors. The world's richest man said Twitter has "tremendous potential" that he would unlock.

The firm initially rebuffed Musk's bid to buy the social media platform for $54.20 (about £42.20) per share, a 38 per cent premium over the share price, but it will now ask shareholders to vote to approve the deal. Twitter founder Jack Dorsey has celebrated the acquisition as a way of taking the platform into private ownership and away from the Wall Street ad model.

“In principle, I don’t believe anyone should own or run Twitter,” Dorsey said. "“It wants to be a public good at a protocol level, not a company. Solving the problem of it being a company, however, Elon is the singular solution I trust.”

Musk has an estimated net worth of $273.6bn (approximately £214.71bn), mostly due to his shareholding in electric vehicle-maker Tesla, which he runs. He also leads the aerospace firm SpaceX.

Following the news of the acquisition, Twitter users and human rights activists have raised concerns regarding the implications of a single individual with multiple business interests owning a platform used by 217 million people, one that plays a key role in shaping the global political and media agenda.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos pointed towards these concerns, as he questioned whether China will lean on Elon Musk's Tesla business to quell criticism of the country on Twitter. 

China is Tesla's second-largest market. In the past, Twitter has suspended more than 223,000 accounts which were secretly operated on behalf of the Chinese Communist Party for the purposes of propaganda and control. Twitter's new ties to Tesla could change the social media company's attitude towards the country. 

"Did the Chinese government just gain a bit of leverage over the town square?" Bezos tweeted.

Musk is not the only tech leader to own media companies. His takeover of Twitter follows Bezos' acquisition of the Washington Post and Marc Andreessen's financing of Clubhouse, raising concerns regarding how the technology industry might use its control of social media platforms to influence public discourse.

The acquisition of Twitter by Musk, a self-described "free speech absolutist", has also left many users and online safety campaigners worried about an increase in hate speech on Twitter.

Amnesty International Technology’s director Rasha Abdul-Rahim said: “We are concerned with any steps that Twitter might take to erode enforcement of the policies and mechanisms designed to protect users.

“The last thing we need is a Twitter that wilfully turns a blind eye to violent and abusive speech against users, particularly those most disproportionately impacted, including women, non-binary persons and others.”

Musk is prolific Twitter user with a controversial past on the site. He has blocked people on the platform who have criticised him or his companies in the past; been sanctioned by the US over tweets about Tesla’s business, and was sued (surprsingly unsuccessfully) for defamation after calling British cave diver Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy” for his part in helping to rescue 12 trapped children.

The billionaire has also been very critical of Twitter's policies of moderating content on the platform, which he sees as limiting free speech.

“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 said.

The Tesla boss had previously stated he did not care about the economics of the deal "at all" and that he wanted to buy Twitter because he did not believe it was properly serving the purpose of free speech. He has called for a series of changes, ranging from relaxing its content restrictions to eradicating fake accounts.

Musk reportedly rounded his offer price up to $54.20 a share because he had recently learned about the number's significance in marijuana culture and thought his girlfriend would find it funny, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission complaint filed at the time. That offer came after the billionaire had bought up a 9 per cent stake in the company and looked set to join its board, before shifting to a takeover bid.

In the wake of Musk’s offer, Twitter had enacted an anti-takeover measure known as a poison pill which could have made a takeover attempt more difficult and expensive, but the firm’s board decided to negotiate after Musk updated his proposal to show he had secured financing, primarily from investment bank Morgan Stanley, according to reports in the US.

In the past, the billionaire has been accused of manipulating Twitter and Tesla's share price, breaking SEC rules.

As he takes control over the social media platform, the billionaire could significantly loosen Twitter’s content moderation rules and allow suspended accounts – most notably including that of former US president Donald Trump – back on the site, which could have a significant influence on political discourse. 

"I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means," Musk tweeted on Monday.

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