Why does Elon Musk want to buy Twitter?
That’s the question everyone is asking Thursday morning after the billionaire entrepreneur, Tesla CEO and serial agitator made a $43 billion take-it-or-leave-it offer to Twitter’s board of directors.
“If it’s not accepted, I will have to reconsider my position as a shareholder,” Musk said, according to the Wall Street Journal. It equates to, let me play as captain or I take my ball and go home.
In typically cheeky fashion, Musk tweeted about the potential deal with Echoes of The Godfather: “I made an offer”
But why is he doing this?
To understand, we have to go back a bit. A few weeks ago, Musk started complaining about Twitter not being a bastion of free speech and conducted a poll.
Freedom of expression is essential to the functioning of a democracy. Do you believe that Twitter strictly adheres to this principle?March 25, 2022
Musk was airing a common frustration among some Twitter users who complain about being shadowbanned for voicing their opinion on the platform. While 70% of its respondents answered “No”, I saw the poll as an erroneous self-selection exercise. Musk’s 84 million Twitter followers are often followers of his particular brand of libertarian maverick.
Twitter, which is not a government agency but in fact a private company, has no qualms about respecting the rules of free or balanced speech. Instead, as a private company, it must protect its users from harm to themselves and others. It has, as a private company, the right to remove people and their posts as they see fit (if they go outside the platform’s published terms of service).
It’s a bit out of place because I think Musk knows this, but just lives to stir the pot and make people think – or maybe think like him.
He later pressed that point and insisted that Twitter’s role as the city’s public square meant it had to adhere to the principles of free speech lest it undermine democracy.
Again, Twitter is not just an American platform. It operates worldwide, even in places that do not support democracy. Musk knows this, but he continued.
Eventually, Musk bought 9.4% of Twitter shares, joined the board, then pulled out before he could, but essentially earned the right to outsized influence and hinted that he could go further.
Now we know his true intentions. Musk seeks complete ownership and control of Twitter.
But for what purpose?
If Twitter’s board accepts this Faustian bargain, it will see a significant portion of Twitter’s workforce leave. Musk must know that too. Does he hope to replace a knowledge-worn workforce with like-minded Muskians?
Let’s say he gets what he wants and makes it his own. How quickly will Musk recognize that Twitter is in fact not just a US-based public square and that using the Constitution as a TOS model cannot work for a globalized private company?
Elon Musk runs Telsa around the world. He sells electric cars to people all over the world. Many of his Twitter followers likely live outside the United States and may dream of living in a democracy where private companies are not beholden to state interests as they are in China.
What’s Musk’s game here?
I know what he said in public, but Elon Musk is not stupid and he must know how it goes. It doesn’t end well for Twitter, but maybe that’s the point. It’s just another feint in the game where Musk treats his billions like Monopoly money, slipping orange $500 bills under the board, throwing them on the table, and demanding Park Place when he really wants to Boardwalk. Or maybe he wants them both… so what?
By the time you read this, Twitter may have already rejected Musks’ offer, and Musk, as he usually does, may have sold his shares and walked away.
Will he also move away from Twitter? Probably, but expect him to come back in six months.