- Elon Musk is taking Twitter private in a deal estimated to be worth $44 billion.
- The Tesla CEO wants Twitter to change in a few controversial ways.
- Free speech and a public algorithm are two main priorities.
Elon Musk isn’t after Twitter for any of the typical reasons you’d expect when someone is spending over $40 billion to buy a business. No, the richest man in the world wants to see change.
“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,” Musk wrote to Twitter when offering to purchase the public company on April 14. “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.”
Naturally, Musk wants to be the man in charge of that transformation. “Twitter has extraordinary potential,” he wrote. “I will unlock it.” That’s hardly surprising, given that Musk is already at the helm of several other ventures, including Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, and Neuralink.
Musk has been dominating Twitter discussion for about a month after he purchased a 9 percent stake in the company on April 4 and then promptly called for changes to Twitter’s operations. Since that time, Twitter’s board has accepted his bid to take the company private—a proposal valued at about $44 billion, based on current numbers—by purchasing all of the existing shares he doesn’t already own. To be clear, it’s a financially aggressive deal: Musk will purchase the company’s remaining shares at $54.20 apiece, a 38 percent premium over the company’s share price this month.
Just what does Musk want to do with Twitter? We have some TED Talks and Musk tweets to key us in. Here are five ways the wildly wealthy entrepreneur could shake up Twitter.
1) A Focus on Free Speech
Musk doesn’t believe Twitter handles free speech all that well. “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy,” he tweeted in March. “Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” His followers don’t believe Twitter does. Musk says that Twitter censorship skews based on politics and doesn’t allow for a true public discourse of ideas. And while the Constitution’s First Amendment allows private employers to restrict some speech in their business, Musk wants to see Twitter stop stifling voices.
2) Make That Algorithm Public
Whether a March tweet or a Ted Talk, Musk has been clear that he thinks Twitter should open-source its algorithm. By opening up the algorithm that Twitter uses, those on the platform can see how Twitter decides to demote or promote material and potentially make suggestions on that code. Opening the code for viewing is not a major undertaking; in fact, much of Twitter’s code is already open source, but opening the code to show how Twitter engineers run the site is something that few social media platforms have done (Pixelfed and Okuna are fully open source) because they want to keep their internal processes private.
3) Eradicate Scams
Personally harmed by scammers impersonating him—costing those duped by the scam over $2 million in cryptocurrency, not to mention the time he was downright hacked in 2020—Musk has complained that “crypto scammers are throwing a spambot block party in every thread.” He wants to clean up the site (if he can) and rid it of scammers and bots to craft a safer place for users, although there’s no mention of how vile content would be put to a stop.
4) The End of Twitter Ads?
Musk isn’t a fan of ads on Twitter, saying it gives the advertising companies too much power over the site. And while ads on the social media platform likely couldn’t abruptly stop if it wants to remain financially viable, Musk has tweeted that he’s a believer in a subscription-based Twitter instead of an advertising-supported version (though he’s since deleted the tweet). Already, Twitter Blue exists, a monthly subscription service that gives users access to premium features for a price, so Musk may work to freshen that plot and entice big-name account holders to tweet more.
5) Oh, and About That Edit Button…
We’ve all heard about the Twitter edit button. Musk hasn’t actually shared his opinion on it, but did toss out an April 4 poll on the social media site, asking his followers if they thought Twitter should have one. After four million votes, the answer was a resounding “yse,” the way Musk misspelled “yes” in the poll.
Editor’s Note, April 25, 2022: This story has been updated to reflect Twitter’s acceptance of Elon Musk’s bid for Twitter in a deal estimated to be worth $44 billion.