Twitter in negotiations with Musk on bid to buy platform: reports

Elon Musk on Monday agreed to buy Twitter for about $ 44 billion, promising a more gentle touch to police content on the social media platform, where he – the richest person in the world – promotes his interests, attacks critics and thinks about a wide range of issues to more than 83 million followers.

The outspoken Tesla boss has said he wanted to own and privatize Twitter because he believes it does not live up to 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” with new features while getting rid of automated “spam” accounts and making its algorithms open to the public to increase trust.

“Freedom of speech is the foundation of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital urban space where issues crucial to the future of humanity are discussed,” the 50-year-old Musk said, adding. hearts, stars and rocket emojis in a tweet highlighting the statement.

The more tangible approach to content moderation that Musk envisions has many users worried that the platform will become more of a haven for disinformation, hate speech, and bullying, something it has worked hard to mitigate in recent years. Wall Street analysts said if he goes too far, it could alienate advertisers as well.

The deal was cemented about two weeks after the billionaire first revealed a 9% stake in the platform. Musk said last week that he had raised $ 46.5 billion in funding to buy Twitter, which puts pressure on the company’s board to negotiate a deal.

Twitter said the transaction was unanimously approved by its board of directors and is expected to close in 2022, pending regulatory sign-off and shareholder approval.

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

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Musk has described himself as an “absolute freedom of speech,” but is also known for blocking or belittling other Twitter users who question or disagree with him.

In recent weeks, he has proposed easing Twitter content restrictions – such as the rules that suspended former President Donald Trump’s account – while freeing the platform for fake “spambot” accounts and moving ads away as its primary revenue model. Musk believes he can increase revenue through subscriptions that give paying customers a better experience – possibly even an ad-free version of Twitter.

Asked during a recent TED interview if there are any limits to his notion of “free speech,” Musk said Twitter would comply with national laws restricting free speech around the world. Beyond that, he said, he would be “very reluctant” to delete posts or permanently ban users who violate company rules.

It will not be perfect, Musk added, “but I think we want it to really have the perception and reality that speech is as free as reasonably possible.”

Following the announcement of the deal, the NAACP issued a statement urging Musk not to allow Trump, the 45th president, back on the platform.

“Do not allow 45 to return to the platform,” the civil rights organization said in a statement. “Do not allow Twitter to become a petri dish of hate speech or lies that undermine our democracy.”

As both candidate and president, Trump made Twitter a powerful megaphone to speak directly to the public, and he often used arousing and divisive language on hot-button topics. He was permanently banned from service in the wake of the January 6 storm of the Capitol.

Advertisers, who are currently Twitter’s biggest customers, have also pushed for the stronger content rules that Musk has criticized. Keeping them happy requires moderation that limits hate speech so brands do not try to promote their products alongside “incitement to genocide,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia.

“If Musk either fires or expels the team on Twitter that is committed to keeping it clean and making it less hateful, he will see an immediate drop in user activity,” Vaidhyanathan said. “I think he’ll find out pretty quickly that it’s bad for the business to invite those bigots in again.”

Some users said Monday that 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 has also run into problems with federal officials as a result of his own tweets, some of which he has sometimes used to mock regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In a tweet from August 2018, for example, Musk claimed he had the funding to take Tesla privately for $ 420 per tonne. share, even though a court has ruled that it was not true. That led to an SEC investigation that Musk is still fighting against. Recently, Musk appeared to have violated SEC rules, which required him to disclose that he had acquired a 5% stake in Twitter; instead, he waited until he had more than 9%. Experts say these issues are unlikely to affect his Twitter acquisition.

While Twitter’s user base of more than 200 million is still much smaller than that of competitors like Facebook and TikTok, the service is popular with celebrities, world leaders, journalists and intellectuals. Musk himself is a prolific tweeter with a fan base competing with several pop stars in the ranks of the most popular accounts.

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

Musk has a fortune of nearly $ 268 billion, much of which is tied up in Tesla shares and SpaceX, his privately owned space company. It is unclear how much money Musk has.

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

That same year, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, after finding that cost constraints limited NASA’s interplanetary travel. The company eventually developed cost-effective recyclable rockets.

In 2004, Musk was courted to invest in Tesla, then a startup trying to build an electric car. Eventually, he became CEO and led the company to astronomical success as the world’s most valuable automaker and largest seller of electric vehicles.

Musk’s pledge to make Twitter a haven for free speech may dampen the appeal of Donald Trump’s troubled Truth Social app, which the former president has proclaimed as a competitor to Twitter, which would appeal to conservatives. Truth Social is part of Trump’s new media company, which has agreed to be published by Digital World Acquisition Corp. Shares of DWAC fell 16.2% on Monday and have fallen 46% since Musk revealed its stake in Twitter.

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

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