News has moved fast since it was revealed last week that Elon Musk purchased a 9.2% stake in Twitter. Since then, Musk was offered a seat on Twitter’s board, an offer he at first accepted, and then declined. Now, Musk has upped the ante by offering to buy Twitter for $41 billion.
In his letter to the board, Musk referenced his desire to make Twitter “the platform for free speech around the globe,” and stated that he has the ability to “unlock” Twitter’s “extraordinary potential.”
Chairman of the Board,
I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy.
However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.
As a result, I am offering to buy 100% of Twitter for $54.20 per share in cash, a 54% premium over the day before I began investing in Twitter and a 38% premium over the day before my investment was publicly announced. My offer is my best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder.
Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.
/s/ Elon Musk
Musk has been vocal about his concern that free speech is not adequately protected on Twitter. In March, he polled his followers, stating, “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy” and asking if his followers believed that “Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle.” Over 70% of respondents voted “No.”
The following day, he wrote, “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?”
Twitter famously booted former President Donald Trump from its platform before his term of office ended. Prior to that, they censored a New York Post report on Hunter Biden’s unethical business deals ahead of the November 2020 presidential election, a story that was recently confirmed in other media outlets.
Seth Dillon, CEO of the Babylon Bee, a satire site that has been suspended from Twitter, revealed that Musk reached out to his company directly before posting his free speech poll. “He even mused on that call he might need to buy Twitter,” Dillon said.
When Musk declined a seat on the board earlier this week – a seat that came with the stipulation that Musk own no more than 14.9% of Twitter’s shares – people began to speculate whether a “hostile takeover” was underway.
Whether this offer can be seen as “hostile” depends on one’s perspective.
Musk has called himself a “free speech absolutist.” Free speech advocates are cheering the possible buyout, but others are concerned about how Twitter might change under Musk’s direction.
Max Boot, a columnist at The Washington Post, posted to Twitter that he is “frightened” of Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, and that the survival of democracy depends on “more content moderation, not less.”
On the other hand, journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote, “…few things are more urgent than platforms devoted to free speech and discourse, rejecting messaging control.”
“If Musk restored what was heralded as the potential of not only Twitter but the internet generally – liberating people from centralized state and corporate control and fostering free discourse – it’d be one of the most valuable developments in years,” Greenwald wrote in a follow-up tweet.
Cartoonist A.F. Branco offered an artistic look at the situation with a cartoon he published on Wednesday of Elon Musk opening the door of a bird cage labeled “censorship,” freeing the blue Twitter bird.
What’s next? Will Musk succeed in his effort to “unlock” Twitter’s free speech potential?
Michael Hewson, the Chief Market analyst at CMC Markets, said, “The big question for the Twitter board now is whether to accept a very generous offer for a business that has been a serial underperformer and tends to treat its users with indifference.”
And Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives called it “a now or never bid for Twitter to accept.”
The Twitter Board of Directors announced that they have received the “unsolicited” offer, and that they “will carefully review the proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interest of the Company and all Twitter stockholders.”
In the meantime, Musk also faces a lawsuit from one of Twitter’s shareholders for failing to disclose his investment within a proper amount of time.