Upon the announcement that Elon Musk had taken a 9.2% stake in the big tech platform Twitter, the media reported the investment as “passive” – an unlikely narrative given Musk’s criticism of the company he just shelled out nearly $3 billion to become the largest individual shareholder in.
Now, a day later, it’s confirmed that Musk will indeed be taking an active role in the company. “I’m excited to share that we’re appointing Elon Musk to our board!” Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal wrote this morning. “Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our Board.”
Musk replied that he’s looking forward to making “significant improvements” in coming months.
Looking forward to working with Parag & Twitter board to make significant improvements to Twitter in coming months!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 5, 2022
Agrawal took over Jack Dorsey’s spot as Twitter CEO in December 2021 in a move that immediately raised free speech concerns on a platform that already has built itself a reputation for silencing conservative voices. In a 2020 interview with MIT Technology Review, Agrawal said that “Our role is not to be bound by the First Amendment, but our role is to serve a healthy public conversation, and our moves are reflective of things that we believe lead to a healthier public conversation. The kinds of things that we do about this is: Focus less on thinking about free speech, but thinking about how the times have changed.”
Musk himself has made note of Twitter’s censorship practices, and told the Babylon Bee’s Seth Dillon when they were banned that he may just “need to buy Twitter.”
Musk reached out to us before he polled his followers about Twitter's commitment to free speech. He wanted to confirm that we had, in fact, been suspended. He even mused on that call that he might need to buy Twitter. Now he's the largest shareholder and has a seat on the board.
— Seth Dillon (@SethDillon) April 5, 2022
As the richest man on Earth at the moment, Musk’s stake in Twitter cost him a sum barely higher than a single percent of his massive fortune, and a takeover of the entire company is possible. Just days ago Musk teased building a competitor to Twitter, but could possibly see taking over the platform itself as more viable alternative. Tucker Carlson speculated as much in response to the news on his show last night:
So, whatever you think or think you think of Elon Musk, he certainly understands that. “Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square,” he wrote recently, “failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.” That is true. Twitter shares surged nearly 30% on the news of Elon Musk’s purchase, so for him, it turned out to be a pretty good buy, but it’s hard to imagine that Musk bought Twitter shares for the investment. He’s already the world’s richest man. He does not need the money.
Could this be the first move in a hostile takeover of Twitter that transforms Twitter into a platform for free speech? Seems that way. Elon Musk is not an Orthodox conservative, but he sees the people in power with devastating clarity. A few months ago, he described wokeness, that is to say, the ideology at the heart of Twitter’s business operations, as “one of the greatest threats to modern civilization.”
A number of high ranking Twitter employees have voiced their opposition to Musk having a role in the company – hopefully they’ll help aid in helping transform the company by quitting.
Matt Palumbo is the author of The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros
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