Elon Musk reaches agreement to buy Twitter and privatize

On Monday, Elon Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter for about $44 billion, promising a more lenient approach to content control on the social media platform where he, the world’s richest man, promotes his interests, attacks critics and speaks out at a wide range of questions. produces over 83 million subscribers.

The outspoken Tesla CEO has said he would like to own and privatize Twitter because he believes it is not fulfilling its potential as a platform for free speech.

Musk said in a joint statement with Twitter that he wants to make the service “better than ever” by adding new features, getting rid of automated “spam” accounts and making its algorithms publicly available to boost trust.

“Free speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the city’s digital plaza where issues vital to the future of humanity are discussed,” Musk, 50, said, adding. hearts, stars and rocket emoticons in a tweet that highlighted the statement.

The more hands-off approach to content moderation that Musk envisions is causing many users to fear that the platform will become more of a haven for disinformation, hate speech and bullying, which she has worked hard to mitigate in recent years. Wall Street analysts say if it goes too far, it could alienate advertisers as well.

The deal came about two weeks after the billionaire first announced his 9% stake in the platform. Musk said last week that he has raised $46.5 billion in funding buy Twitter, putting pressure on the company’s board to negotiate a deal.

Twitter said the deal has been unanimously approved by its board of directors and is expected to close in 2022 following regulatory and shareholder approval.

Shares of Twitter Inc. rose more than 5% on Monday to $51.70 a share. On April 14, Musk announced an offer to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share. While the stock has risen sharply since Musk made his offer, it is well below the high of $77 a share reached in February 2021.

Musk has described himself as a “free speech absolutist” but is also known for blocking or humiliating other Twitter users who ask him questions or disagree with him.

In recent weeks, he has proposed easing restrictions on Twitter content, such as the rules that ousted the former president. Donald Trumpaccount, while ridding the platform of fake spambot accounts and eliminating advertising as its main revenue model. Musk believes he can boost revenue with subscriptions, which give paying customers a better experience — perhaps even an ad-free version of Twitter.

Asked during a recent TED interview if there are any limits to his concept of “free speech,” Musk said Twitter will abide by national laws that restrict free speech around the world. In addition, he said, he would be “very reluctant” to delete posts or permanently ban users who violate the company’s policies.

It won’t be perfect, Musk added, “but I think we want it to really have the feeling and the reality that speech is as free as possible.”

After the deal was announced, the NAACP released a statement urging Musk to prevent Trump, the 45th president, from returning to the platform.

“Don’t let 45 get back on the platform,” the civil rights organization said in a statement. “Don’t let Twitter become a petri dish for hate speech or lies that undermine our democracy.”

As both candidate and president, Trump has turned Twitter into a powerful mouthpiece for communicating directly with the public, often using inflammatory and divisive language on pressing issues. He was permanently suspended from service after the January events. 6 assault on the Capitol.

Advertisers, now Twitter’s main customers, are also pushing for stricter content policies, which Musk has criticized. Keeping them happy requires moderation to limit hate speech so that brands don’t try to promote their products alongside “calls for genocide,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia.

“If Musk either fires or fires the Twitter team that is committed to keeping it clean and less filled with hate, he will see an immediate drop in user activity,” Vaidhyanathan said. “I think he’ll figure out pretty quickly that inviting fanatics back is bad for business.”

On Monday, some users said they planned to leave the platform if Musk took over. To which he responded on Twitter: “I hope even my worst critics stay on Twitter, because that’s what freedom of speech means.”

Musk also got into trouble with federal officials over his own tweets, some of which he used to taunt regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

For example, in one August 2018 tweet, Musk claimed he had the funds to take Tesla private at $420 a share, even though a court ruled that was not true. This led to an SEC investigation that Musk is still struggling. More recently, Musk appears to have violated SEC rules that required him to disclose that he purchased a 5% stake in Twitter; instead, he waited until he had more than 9%. Experts say these issues are unlikely to affect his acquisition of Twitter.

While Twitter’s user base of over 200 million is still far smaller than that of competitors such as facebook and TikTok, the service is popular with celebrities, world leaders, journalists and intellectuals. Musk himself is a prolific tweeter, with a following that rivals several pop stars as the most followed accounts.

Last week, he said in SEC filings that the money would come from Morgan Stanley and other banks, part of which would be backed by his huge stake in Tesla, the electric car company he runs.

Musk’s net worth is nearly $268 billion, most of which is in shares in Tesla and SpaceX, his private space company. It’s unclear how much money Musk has.

Musk began making his fortune in 1999 when he sold Zip2, an online map and business guide, to Compaq for $307 million. He used his stake to create what would become PayPal, an internet service that bypassed banks and allowed consumers to pay businesses directly. It was sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion.

That same year, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, after discovering that financial constraints were limiting NASA’s interplanetary travel. The company eventually developed economical, reusable rockets.

In 2004, Musk was persuaded to invest in Tesla, then a start-up trying to build an electric car. He eventually became CEO and led the company to astronomical success, becoming the world’s most valuable automaker and the largest seller of electric vehicles.

Musk’s promise to make Twitter a haven for free speech could overshadow the appeal of a troubled Donald Trump. truth social an app that the former president touted as a conservative-targeted competitor to Twitter. Truth Social is part of Trump’s new media company, which has agreed to go public with Digital World Acquisition Corp. DWAC shares fell 16.2% on Monday and fell 46% after Musk announced his stake on Twitter.

Krischer reported from Detroit. O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island. AP Business Writers correspondents Marcy Gordon of Washington, Barbara Ortutay of Oakland, California, and Kelvin Chen of London contributed to this report.