Elon Musk has formalized a hostile offer to buy 100% of Twitter shares for $54.20 each. He wants to take control of the company at all costs and is ready to pay an additional 40% per share of the value they had before the announcement of the purchase of 9.2% of the company a few years ago. weeks.
“I invested in Twitter because I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the world, and I believe it has to be a social imperative for democracy to work,” he said. businessman to chairman of the Twitter Board. . “But since making my investment, I have realized that the company will never pursue or fulfill this social imperative by operating as it does today.”
It’s a hostile offersince Musk’s vision and goals are radically different from what the council has had so far.
Freedom or more moderation?
For Twitter, as for the rest of the American digital platforms, one of the big challenges is to moderate more content, and to do it faster. We have seen this in the face of the Russian invasion, since they were quick to block the Kremlin propaganda media and even many sympathetic or skeptical testimonies to information that comes from the Western media to misinform. Also during the COVID-19 pandemic, where anti-vaccine rhetoric was promoted on the internet, posing a public health risk.
But for Musk the problem of social networks, and Twitter, which is the only one he uses, is quite the opposite: censor, moderate or hide content that is not illegal and that, therefore, it violates freedom of expression, a fundamental right recognized in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The popular millionaire believes it is harmful for a business to decide what can be said and what cannot be said or what is true and what is not. This is a debate of particular importance after the case of Joe Rogan and his skeptical comments about certain mandates and the possible effects of vaccines.
Musk only had the hostile path left
We have to keep in mind that Twitter is a business, and as such it has the right to decide what content it wants to allow and what not according to its own criteria. You can censor whatever it deems to be most beneficial to your interests or those of your users. So far that’s no problem, but Twitter’s reach is global and almost unique: it’s where news first arrives and where much of the public opinion discourse is concentrated. From then on, Musk understands that he is a pillar of society, and that as such he must protect himself.
He defines himself as a “free speech absolutist”, and several media define him as a “radical”. The truth is that all these epithets are nonsense: either there is freedom of expression or there is not.. There is no notion of great or small freedom of expression, and it only exists when it is the judge who decides whether or not what is said violates the law. Freedom of expression is not the freedom to say what you want without any limits, and it never has been. The difference is that the limit is justified only by law, enacted to protect the rights of citizens, or also the criteria of a company based on its ideas or interests.
“My offer is final and if it is not accepted, I will reconsider my position as a shareholder. Twitter has tremendous potential, and I’m going to unleash it.”
Elon Musk to Twitter Chairman Bret Taylor
Twitter responded by saying “the board will carefully review the proposal to determine how to proceed in the best interests of the company and all Twitter shareholders.”
This acerbic phrase is a clear attack on Twitter management and its employees, who do not share Musk’s vision. They believe in moderating more, he believes in moderating less and innovating faster. Because of this difference, the company offered him a seat on the board in exchange for buying no more than 15% of the shares. It was a poison dart for Musk’s true ambitions: if he had accepted this chair, he would have been banned from speaking ill of Twitter, which has been his favorite pastime on Twitter lately, and he doesn’t. would not have had the option of a hostile takeover of the company. based on invoices. Musk declined the offer, and now he intends to impose his idea by force. Or release it, depending on how you see it.
Freedom of expression or personal ambition?
It would be naive to buy Musk’s speech the way he sells it; After all, he is a businessman, and despite the fact that his companies have objectives such as promoting the use of renewable energies or transforming human beings into a “multi-planetary species”, the purpose of these or anything else is to make money. No one starts or buys a business only to lose it.
Twitter has always been a platform that has not been valued according to its importance in society. It’s all happening on Twitter, but no one knows how to monetize it. The company has been accused of innovating little and late, and the incessant change of course between managers who do not use the platform has not been very beneficial.
For Musk, instead, Twitter is very important. Without this speaker, his power would decline; much of his fortune and fame have been achieved through his tweets. What would happen to Musk if Twitter shut down his account? You can’t consent to this, you have to protect yourself. He moves stock value and publicizes his own plans and ideas better than anyone; He agitates the masses, creates debates when he wants and provokes a controversy all the more annoying for his detractors because Elon Musk breaks all the stratagems.
He’s an annoying agitator, but he’s also an entrepreneur capable of doing what was thought impossible: he reuses rockets and increases production and sales of his electric cars while the competition settles for production lines lack of a chip made in China. This is why he polarizes opinion so much, he is an agitator who, unlike the others, make progress really.
His controversial character is supported by Twitter as part of his success as a communicator. It was also for former President Donald Trump, who took advantage of the platform to deliver the right message directly to his supporters; a direct and moving message.
Using the terms “liberate” and “free speech”, Musk justifies in front of public opinion his taking of Twitter strength. Throughout history, all power-hungry men have justified their stranglehold before the people by legislative changes, promises or the defense of an idea such as freedom.
What to expect if the acquisition goes through
If the acquisition succeeds, more than likely due to the size of the offer and the difficulty of justifying any other party to a counteroffer, it would mean a sea change for the platform. It would become an unlisted company, so Musk could say what he wanted about it and use it however he saw fit.
Perhaps the Trump account will be reinstated and propaganda outlets like RT will no longer be censored unless a judge rules.
Social networks need to moderate content not because of what can be said there, but because of the algorithms that are used. The freedom of speech was never an issue on the internet until algorithms were put in place to increase engagement and time of use on social media. As soon as Facebook and Twitter started tidying up feeds to make polarizing issues more appealing, conspiracy theories and what they call the “misinformation problem” started to surface. It’s a dilemma that they generated themselves in search of higher ad revenue.
If Musk takes control and advocates for a full restoration of free speech, he will have to drastically reduce the place of algorithms so that users do not constantly see the content they like the most or the one that annoys them the most. they have is what the algorithms favor for you to be addicted to the social network: reinforce your ideas or show you contrary things so that you get angry and react. An incessant string of applause or insults that only benefits the announcer.
US media warn of worker discontent of Twitter in the face of this possible hostile takeover. They believe that their fight is just, that of moderation and the creation of the healthiest possible environment. However, users seem to be divided into two clearly identifiable groups: those who defend freedom of expression as the highest imperative and those who advocate censorship of content they deem harmful.
Whatever the problem with Twitter, depending on who you ask, one thing is clear: if Musk takes control of the company, there will be drastic changes and innovations for the first time in its history. The businessman has already clarified that beyond the defense of freedom of expression, the company’s activity cannot depend mainly on advertising. He wants to steer the company towards the Substack model or build on the latest ideas of its founder Jack Dorsey and decentralize its power and open its protocol to encourage free and open speech.
For better or for worse, but Twitter will change.