Musk offered $54.20 per share for Twitter and outlined his plan to secure $46.5 billion to finance his deal. Twitter’s shares spiked Monday morning on reports that the company could be nearing a deal with Musk.
So why does the world’s richest person, who already leads electric-car company Tesla and aerospace company SpaceX, want to buy the social media company?
Why did Elon Musk want to buy Twitter?
Musk has said he wants to promote free and open speech on the service, which he has said he sees as an essential place for sharing viewpoints.
During a TED interview shortly after announcing his bid, he expanded on some of his plans.
“Well, I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech,” Musk said. “Twitter has become kind of the de facto town square, so it’s just really important that people have both the reality and the perception that they are able to speak freely within the bounds of the law.”
Musk has not said whether he would change the permanent ban on former president Donald Trump, who was kicked off the site in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection last year.
Critics of Musk’s plan have expressed concerns that he would allow extremist content on the site, which Twitter and other social media companies struggle to fully eradicate. Musk acknowledged during the TED interview that content moderation is not a clear-cut issue.
He said he thought Twitter should be “very cautious with permanent bans,” adding that he thought timeouts were better.
“Well, I think we would want to err on the, if in doubt, let the speech, let it exist. But if it’s a gray area, I would say let the tweet exist,” he said. “But obviously in a case where there’s perhaps a lot of controversy, you’re not necessarily going to promote that tweet. I’m not saying I have all the answers here.”
He reiterated that his deal wasn’t about making money.
“My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization,” he said. “I don’t care about the economics at all.”
How quickly could he change things on Twitter?
Probably not that quickly. The deal still needs to be finalized, a process that could take weeks or months.
Under federal law, Musk will have to notify regulators at the Federal Trade Commission and Justice Department about his plans to buy Twitter. If regulators open a review of the deal, it could lead to delays in closing the purchase.
After that, Musk has pledged to take Twitter private. When he announced his bid, he said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that “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.”
Musk has said he would want to keep as many shareholders as allowed by the law when he takes the company private. And he hasn’t announced plans for what a leadership team or potential board of directors would look like, so there are still a lot of open questions about how much direct influence Musk would wield.
What has Musk said about a possible edit button on Twitter?
The edit button is probably one of the most requested features on Twitter. Picture this: You have crafted your perfect, punchy, 280-character-or-less thought, you type it out, you press “Tweet.” And then you see a typo.
Twitter does not have a way to edit tweets without deleting and resending. Musk asked his followers whether they wanted an edit button in a poll on Twitter, and 73.6 percent of the more than 4 million voters said yes.
A day later, Twitter’s communications team confirmed in a tweet that the company was already working on the feature.
“no, we didn’t get the idea from a poll,” the team tweeted with a winky face.
now that everyone is asking…
yes, we’ve been working on an edit feature since last year!
no, we didn’t get the idea from a poll 😉
we’re kicking off testing within @TwitterBlue Labs in the coming months to learn what works, what doesn’t, and what’s possible.
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) April 5, 2022
What has Musk said about making Twitter’s algorithm more open?
Musk has said he wants to make Twitter’s algorithm more transparent, including letting people see whether their tweets were promoted or demoted. He said he wants to make the algorithm that recommends whether a tweet gets promoted or demoted “open source,” or available for the public to view and improve upon. He said he believes that will help prevent “behind the scenes manipulation.”
Researchers say this plan is vastly more complicated than Musk’s proposal makes it seem. And Twitter has been considering it already.
A former Twitter employee who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private matters said the company has considered an “algorithm marketplace” in which users can choose different ways to view their feeds. But efforts to offer more transparency have proved challenging, the person said, because of how tied Twitter’s algorithms are to other parts of the product. Opening it up could reveal trade secrets and invite abuse, the person said.
What might happen with your private Twitter messages and data?
Twitter direct messages are not encrypted, meaning they are less secure and potentially easier for people inside the company to view since it does not require an encryption key. While Twitter has an option to delete DMs, it warns that the action only removes the data for an individual user. The other parties can still see it, meaning it is retained on Twitter’s servers.
Musk’s own direct messages, or private messages, have occasionally become public. Last year, he messaged a teenager who was running an account that tracked his private jet. Musk offered him $5,000 to take down the account. (The teen declined.)