What's with Elon Musk and Twitter?
A lot has been said about multi-billionaire Elon Musk and his newest acquisition: Twitter. Known by his spacecraft engineering corporation SpaceX and his highly technological car brand Tesla, Musk's recent purchase is controversial. But why?
Why would Elon Musk buy Twitter in the first place?
Considering Musk's area of expertise and the companies he has invested in in the past, one might ask why he would spend $44 billion to buy a social media platform. While several news portals have gathered different possible motives to justify further this purchase – such as using it as a way to make more money – Musk affirmed: “the reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence. There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far right-wing and far left-wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society.” Basically, what he meant is that he bought the platform as a way to ensure its neutral nature when it comes to politics, thus keeping it as a common ground where society can discuss different subjects. He also added: "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".
Nevertheless, the engineer's unexpected purchase was turbulent: Musk showed signs of changing his mind about his acquisition a few times. While his role as the owner of Twitter was somewhat gradual, that is, he got progressively more powerful inside the corporation, his constant indecision towards investment led the deal to be way trickier than he might have anticipated. Musk started as an investor, moved into being the biggest shareholder (owning 9.2% of the company's stakes), and then was announced as one of the members of Twitter's Board of Directors on April 5th, 2022. However, five days later (April 10th), he declared that he would not, in fact, join the Board of Directors. Even so, Musk kept making offers to officially buy the platform, and his proposal was accepted when the value hit 44 billion dollars. Upon the acceptance of the deal, Musk came out to affirm that, once he became Twitter's owner, he would reverse the ban on former US president Donald Trump's account – who had been excluded from the platform due to the risk of further incitement of violence". This declaration caused controversy, once many users opposed Musk's declaration, affirming that Trump was correctly banned as a consequence of his violations of Twitter's rules; meanwhile, other users debated that Trump being banned was a violation of freedom of speech. Either way, Musk gave all the signals that the offer was still standing – until the billionaire threatened to pull out of the deal when he stumbled upon some statistics on fake accounts and moved to terminate his acquisition of Twitter. Despite Musk's wish and attempt to back out of buying the social network, the platform sued the business magnate in order to force him to complete the deal, once he had already "knowingly, intentionally, willfully, and materially breached the Agreement". Thus, Elon Musk acquired Twitter in October of 2022, finally concretizing the deal.
The controversies surrounding Musk's purchase
As soon as Elon Musk took over Twitter, about half of the company's personnel workforce was laid off. This decision contributed to critiques around Musk's Twitter management. Moreover, he launched a new subscription service, called Twitter Blue, which allows users to access verification (the blue checkmark) upon the payment of a monthly fee of $8. However, this new resource seems to have backfired: Twitter users were using it to impersonate famous people and popular brands, which resulted in a temporary pause on the program – ultimately making the platform even more susceptible to the spreading of misinformation. These events led to several advertisers pulling back, contradicting Musk's previous saying that he would quintuple Twitter's revenue by 2028.
Moreover, Musk's increasing support for far-right politics also contributed to controversial opinions following his ownership of Twitter. While he claimed that his main motive behind purchasing the company was to maintain it as a neutral common ground for healthy debates, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO has adopted a contradicting – and fairly hypocritical – behavior on Twitter itself. On top of openly addressing his future support for Florida's governor Ron de Santis in the next presidential race, he has used his own platform to give voice to right-wing disinformation, such as a conspiracy theory designed to undermine the assassination of Pelosi – who has long been demonized by the GOP and conservative media.
It is possible to see how, apart from the complicated history of Elon Musk's acquisition of Twitter, the controversies surrounding this purchase revolve more around Musk's persona and his behavior on social media. His unethical actions, extremist political opinions, and his hypocritical statements – such as the massive Twitter layoff, the spreading of misinformation, and his support for far-right politics online while advertising it as a neutral middle ground – were responsible for creating a strong opposition regarding his power over this social media platform. As far as the financial aspect of his management, it is still early to judge how effective or profitable his presence as the owner has been.