Elon Musk has completed his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, a source familiar with the deal told CNN on Thursday, putting the world’s richest man in charge of one of the world’s most influential social media platforms.
Musk fired CEO Parag Agrawal and two other executives, according to two people familiar with the decision. Twitter declined to comment.
The closing of the deal lifts a cloud of uncertainty that has hung over Twitter’s business, employees, and shareholders for most of the year. After initially agreeing to buy the company in April, Musk spent months trying to get out of the deal, initially citing concerns about the number of bots on the platform and later allegations from a corporate whistleblower.
By closing the deal, Musk and Twitter avoided a trial that was originally scheduled to take place earlier this month. But the acquisition of Musk and the immediate firings of some of his top executives are now raising a host of new questions about the future of the social media platform and the many sectors of society it will affect. Musk also fired CFO Ned Segal and Policy Head Vijaya Gadde on Thursday, according to the two sources.
Musk has said he plans to reconsider Twitter’s content moderation policies to take a more maximalist approach to “free speech.” The billionaire has also said he disagrees with Twitter’s practice of permanently banning those who repeatedly break its rules, raising the possibility that a number of previously banned, controversial users could re-emerge on the platform.
Perhaps most immediately, many will be watching how quickly Musk could let former President Donald Trump back onto the platform, as he previously announced. Depending on the timing, such a move could have significant implications for the upcoming US midterm elections as well as the 2024 presidential campaign.
With these moves, Musk could single-handedly upend the media and political ecosystem, reshape online public discourse, and disrupt the burgeoning sphere of conservative-leaning social media content, largely in response to complaints of bans and restrictions from Twitter and other mainstream services have emerged.
Earlier this week, Musk visited Twitter headquarters in San Francisco to meet with employees. He also released an open letter to Twitter advertisers, saying he doesn’t want the platform to become a “hellscape where anything can be said without consequences.”
The acquisition also promises to expand Musk’s influence. The billionaire already owns, controls or holds significant stakes in companies developing cars, rockets, robots and satellite internet, as well as more experimental ventures like brain implants. Now he controls a social media platform that determines how hundreds of millions of people communicate and get their messages.
Even for Twitter, a company known for a history of chaos, Musk’s month-long deal process has been a tumultuous one.
Musk, a prominent and controversial Twitter user, became involved with the company earlier this year when he built a more than 9% stake in its stock. After announcing he had become Twitter’s largest shareholder, Musk accepted and then withdrew from an offer to sit on the company’s board of directors.
Musk then offered to buy Twitter outright at a significant premium, threatened a hostile takeover, and signed a “seller-friendly” deal to buy the company that included waiving due diligence.
“This is not a way to make money,” Musk said in a stage interview shortly after he made an offer to buy Twitter. “My strong intuitive feeling is that having a public platform that is maximally familiar and inclusive is extremely important for the future of civilization.”
Musk also vowed to “defeat the spam bots or die trying,” referring to the fake and fraudulent accounts that are often particularly active in responding to his tweets and those of others with a large following on the platform .
However, within weeks of the acquisition agreement, Musk began voicing concerns about the proliferation of the same fake and spam accounts on Twitter, eventually attempting to end the deal.
Twitter sued him for honoring the agreement, alleging that Musk used the bot argument as an excuse to get out of a deal for which he had developed buyer’s remorse. In the weeks following the deal’s announcement, much of the stock market, including social media companies, fell on worries of rising inflation and a looming recession. The downturn also hit Tesla, and with it Musk’s personal fortune.
Legal experts widely believed that Twitter was on a strong footing to enforce the deal in court. Two weeks before the controversial lawsuit was due to go to court, Musk said he would go through with the deal on its original terms. As the parties negotiated, Musk’s attorneys asked a judge to stay the court case, prompting a rebuff from Twitter, which feared Musk might not be true to his promise to complete the deal.
In a sharp reply, lawyers tweeted that Musk had attempted to walk out of the deal and “now, on the eve of the trial, the defendants say they intend to go through with it.” ‘Trust us,’ they say, ‘we mean business this time.’”
Registrar of the Delaware Chancery Court, Kathaleen St., Judge McCormick gave the parties until 5 p.m. on Oct. 28 to close the deal or face a rescheduled trial.
With the deal drama out of the way, attention is now turning to Musk’s plans for Twitter.
In addition to ousting Twitter’s CEO and other executives, Musk’s acquisition could also herald the return of some influence over the company from founder Jack Dorsey, who stepped down as CEO in November and stepped down from the board in May. While Dorsey has said he won’t be officially returning to Twitter, he has privately discussed the acquisition with Musk and offered advice.
Musk has also reportedly told potential investors in the deal that he plans to lay off nearly 75% of the company’s employees, a move that could disrupt every aspect of how Twitter works. He had previously spoken in personal text messages with friends about the deal’s dramatic reduction in Twitter’s workforce, revealed in court filings, and did not dismiss the possibility of layoffs in a call with Twitter employees in June.
Under Musk, Twitter may have no use for many of its existing employees. Musk has repeatedly made it clear that he would revise Twitter’s content moderation policy and strengthen what he calls “free speech,” potentially undoing years of the company’s efforts to clamp down on misinformation and harassment and promote “healthier” practices. to conduct conversations on the platform.
Such a move could also have an impact on the entire social media landscape. Twitter, while smaller than many of its social media peers, has at times served as a model for how the industry deals with problematic content, including when it was the first to ban then-President Trump after the Jan. 6 Capitol riots.
And in recent years, several alternative social networks have launched, mostly targeting conservatives who claim more mainstream services are overly restricting their speech. Those services include Trump’s “Truth Social” and “Parler,” which Kanye West recently announced. While it’s unclear how far Musk might go in fulfilling his dreams of free speech, any relaxation of existing content moderation policies could effectively make Twitter, which boasts a much larger audience, a more enticing service for some of the users who are too fled from these smaller ones. fringe benefits. (Musk, however, could face regulatory issues, particularly in Europe, depending on how far he takes his efforts to ease content restrictions.)
Aside from content moderation, Musk has also scrapped a wide range of other possible changes for the platform, from enabling end-to-end encryption for Twitter’s direct messaging feature to the recent suggestion that Twitter be part of an “everything” app named X will. possibly in the style of the popular Chinese app WeChat.
Despite his months of trying to get out of buying the company and his own recent comment that he’s “obviously paying too much for it,” Musk has tried to sound bullish about Twitter’s potential.
“The long-term potential for Twitter, in my view, is an order of magnitude greater than its current value,” he said on last week’s Tesla earnings call.