Elon Musk buys 9.2% stake in Twitter
After suggesting the platform needs to support free speech
Musk is now the single biggest shareholder.
Entrepreneur Elon Musk has bought a 9.2% stake in Twitter, soon after suggesting that the platform should be respecting free speech but isn’t.
Musk is now the single biggest Twitter shareholder.
Twitter shares rose about 26% in pre-market trading after the news broke, following a disclosure from Musk about the purchase.
On March 25th, Musk started a Twitter poll that led to speculation that he might launch a Twitter alternative. He wrote that “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy,” then asked followers if they “believe Twitter rigorously adhered to this principle.”
In a follow up tweet, he asked followers to “vote carefully” because “the consequences of this poll will be important.”
More than 70% of respondents said Twitter did not adhere to the principle of free speech.
Multiple commenters suggested Musk should launch a Twitter alternative that would embrace the principle of free speech. Others suggested he should buy Twitter.
“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” Musk wrote. “What should be done?”
The following Friday, Musk told Twitter that their algorithm should be open source. Former Twitter boss Jack Dorsey agreed, saying: “The choice of which algorithm to use (or not) should be open to everyone.”
However, Dorsey has not always been a champion of free speech. During his tenure, President Donald Trump was censored and the Hunter Biden revelations that were considered damaging to the Biden campaign were suppressed.
Dorsey has a 2.25% stake in Twitter.
Jack Dorsey’s successor, current CEO Parag Agrawal, is also not keen on respecting free speech.
Shortly after he assumed the Twitter CEO role, it was revealed that he had recently said, “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,” Agrawal said.
“One of the changes today that we see is speech is easy on the internet. Most people can speak. Where our role is particularly emphasized is who can be heard. The scarce commodity today is attention. There’s a lot of content out there. A lot of tweets out there, not all of it gets attention, some subset of it gets attention.
“And so increasingly our role is moving towards how we recommend content and that sort of, is, is, a struggle that we’re working through in terms of how we make sure these recommendation systems that we’re building, how we direct people’s attention is leading to a healthy public conversation that is most participatory,” Agrawal added.
Musk has yet to announce how he will use his influence to shape the platform but it isn’t his first time owning shares in a software company.
Musk is the co-founder and CEO of electric car maker Tesla and space exploration company SpaceX.
Educated at the University of Pennsylvania in physics, Musk became a serial tech entrepreneur with early successes with Zip2 and X.com.
X.com was instrumental in creating the company that later became PayPal after a merger.
By Cindy Harper