Elon Musk may just buy Twitter: What does this mean for free speech?

Elon Musk may just buy Twitter: What does this mean for free speech?

Will he? Won’t he? Should he? We might see a decision soon enough.

Negotiations between Twitter and Elon Musk are apparently in the last stretch and a decision could come in by Monday Negotiations between Twitter and Elon Musk are apparently in the last stretch and a decision could come in by Monday

Elon Musk has reportedly managed to put together a $46.5 billion funding package to acquire Twitter. While the Twitter board had initially opposed Musk’s offer to buy the platform out, “adopting a so-called poison pill defence against any unwanted takeover approach”, as The Guardian put it, it appears to have changed its mind. Twitter’s shareholders and Musk reportedly met for talks after the Tesla chief filed details of funding for his bid.

According to the New York Times, Twitter is “nearing a deal” with Musk and the ongoing discussions include “the timeline for a transaction and the size of any fees paid should the sale process fall apart”. Reports suggest that a deal could be finalised this week itself and also that Musk has told Twitter chairman Bret Taylor that “he will not move on his $54.20 a share offer that values the business at $43 billion”, according to the Wall Street Journal.

However, Reuters’ sources state that  “the company's decision to engage with Musk, taken earlier on Sunday, does not mean that it will accept his $54.20 per share bid…It signifies, however, that Twitter is now exploring whether a sale of the company to Musk is possible on attractive terms”.

If and how Musk goes about with this process is slightly less of a concern now. The bigger concern and question is - what happens to Twitter if Musk does manage to buy it. Musk’s main agenda, as he has vociferously claimed, is “free speech”. He wants to buy Twitter so that he can keep it as is and shape it to his vision as a “self-confessed free speech absolutist”. Musk mentioned in a letter he wrote to the Twitter board earlier this month that “Twitter is the platform for free speech around the world” but this “social imperative” cannot be realised if Twitter remains in its current form, and thus it “needs to be transformed as a private company”.

There’s also the whole deal about the edit button on Twitter, amongst all this.

Musk has more than 83 million followers on the platform and has posted a whole lot of tweets post acquiring 9.2 per cent of the platform suggesting changes. This 9.2 per cent of Twitter made Musk the largest individual shareholder of the platform. Some of the posts he made have been deleted but we know that an edit button is indeed coming (it won’t work the way you expect it to though) and adverts might also be removed from Twitter Blue, but that remains to be seen.

Musk wants to maintain this “free speech” status for Twitter so that he can, for all practical purposes, continue s%$tposting on the platform without consequences. If he owns the platform, he also does not need to listen to governments’ grievances. For example, what would Musk do if the Indian government demanded (again) that certain tweets be deleted and accounts blocked?

As The Verge pointed out, many American right-wingers have been treating Musk’s bid as a “win for conservatives, a chance to get revenge on the company for banning Donald Trump in 2020”. In that case, there is REALLY no knowing how Musk would react if the Indian government did make strange requests again.

But, “there’s no immediate evidence that Musk bought his stake in the company to settle some kind of culture-war grievance, but that only raises an even larger question - what does Musk want from Twitter?”

Musk wants to deal with surface weather conditions with Hyperloop, as ridiculous as it sounds. And at this point, he wants to buy Twitter so as his “free speech” is maintained. The edit button is coming anyway, so that’s that.

Also Read: Elon Musk miffed with Bill Gates for shorting Tesla stocks, trolls him with distasteful meme

Also Read: Elon Musk, Twitter, hostile takeover, edit button: What does this mean for you and me