Elon Musk promises'significant improvements' to Twitter and refers to crypto spam bots as the "single most annoying problem."
- Elon Musk will join Twitter's board of directors after purchasing a 9.2 percent share in the social media business, according to a press release filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
- Twitter's shares ended the day up 2%.
- "It became evident to us in recent conversations with Elon that he would offer enormous value to our Board," CEO Parag Agrawal said in a tweet.
Elon Musk has joined the board of directors of Twitter, the influential social media company announced Tuesday, giving the world's richest man a vote in the business's destiny.
The announcement comes just one day after Musk announced that he had purchased 9.2 percent of the company, making him the company's largest stakeholder.
While Musk's early federal regulatory filings suggested he intended to buy a passive position in Twitter, his subsequent activities have left no question that he intends to shake things up. Musk spent the next three weeks, without disclosing that he was a part-owner and in talks to join the board, influencing discussions about Twitter's future — its algorithm, how it polices speech, and even whether a "new platform" was needed — all without disclosing that he was a part-owner and in talks to join the board.
"Looking forward to working with Parag and the Twitter board to make big changes to Twitter in the coming months," Musk tweeted Tuesday in response to the company's new CEO, Parag Agrawal's public welcome. Musk had surveyed his 80 million Twitter followers hours before to see if they wanted an edit button, which would allow them to change tweets after they were posted, a wink to a long-standing feature request from the platform's power users. It could also be a sign of how he intends to utilise his Twitter platform as a bully pulpit to push for change.
The idea of Musk micromanaging Twitter has sent the stock of the firm surging, employees tumbling, and Republican leaders yearning for a more permissive position on political speech from a network that has permanently banned former President Donald Trump. In an election year, it also sets the firm up for a cascade of political controversies, with conservatives calling for Musk to cease "censorship" and employees demanding that the company follow its rules protecting people from disinformation and injury.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), a Trump supporter, wrote, "Elon Musk has made plain that he opposes big tech censorship, and that's something all freedom-loving Americans can get behind." Others have urged Musk to reactivate Trump's account, including a former Trump administration official.
On Tuesday, Twitter bosses praised Musk outwardly while attempting to reassure staff concerned about how he will complicate their work.
"It became evident to us in recent conversations with Elon that he would contribute enormous value to our Board," Agrawal tweeted. "On Twitter and in the boardroom, he's both a passionate believer and an outspoken critic of the service, which is precisely what we need to make us stronger in the long run."
The company's co-founder and Agrawal's predecessor as CEO, Jack Dorsey, reiterated the greeting, implying that Musk will take on a leadership role. He wrote on Twitter, "Parag and Elon both lead with their hearts, and they will be a wonderful team."
A senior Twitter executive tried to reassure her team in an open letter to employees, stressing that the mission of addressing "hate speech and trolls" was "larger than any board member," according to internal papers obtained by The Washington Post.
Musk's time on the board of directors will be extended until 2024, according to a regulatory filing published Monday. While Dorsey remains on the board, his 2.3 percent ownership holding is now dwarfed by Musk's, who is ready to compete for influence with activist shareholders such as Elliott Management, which had pushed for Dorsey's removal in response to demands for faster development.
Officials from Twitter scoffed at the notion that Musk would wield undue power.
In a statement, spokeswoman Brenden Lee stated, "Our Board performs a crucial advisory and feedback role across the entirety of our service." "Twitter management and workers are in charge of our day-to-day operations and decisions."
A attempt for response from Musk went unanswered.
Musk's appointment to the board of directors sets the setting for a political showdown between conservatives who want a more laissez-faire approach to monitoring what users say and corporate executives who have championed greater actions to limit disinformation and harm in the run-up to the election. It also runs the risk of further dividing the company's management, following years of investor activism and Dorsey's abrupt exit late last year. The corporation is already at a crossroads in the run-up to the midterm elections in 2022, which will determine which party controls Congress.
When Trump was banned off Twitter last year for statements that appeared to incite a Capitol insurgency, it enraged conservatives. Musk expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision by social media firms in tweets at the time, and he has referred to himself as a free-speech advocate.
"Almost no politician or business leader understands attention like Musk," said Emerson Brooking, a resident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Digital Forensics Lab. "Rather than creating electric cars, he has made his money mostly through the manipulation of public attention in the public good."
Brooking said he thinks Musk might take steps to restore Trump's account and pressure the corporation to soften its stance on the right.
Some prominent Republicans appeared to agree, sending out jubilant tweets in response to Musk's appointment to the board of directors. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, simply tweeted: "Musk." "Freedom of expression."
Musk has always viewed himself as a hero fighting societal issues that he believes are unavoidable, such as climate change and artificial intelligence.
Trump's ongoing campaign for internet free speech seems to begin last year, when he was banned from Twitter. "A lot of people are going to be incredibly unhappy with West Coast high tech being the de facto arbiter of free expression," Musk wrote days after Twitter ejected Trump.
He's been posting a regular stream of tweets since then, portraying himself as a free-speech zealot. He's also undertaken a series of polls that suggest how he plans to use his power.
Musk launched a Twitter poll on March 24 after acquiring a portion of Twitter but before disclosing it, asking whether Twitter's algorithm should be "open source." He held another Twitter poll the next day, this time asking whether Twitter adheres to free speech values. He predicted that the poll's "consequences" would be "significant." Twitter users unanimously decided that it did not.
"Is a new platform required?" Musk inquired on March 26.
Musk's free-speech tweets persisted in the days after, fueling suspicion that he was considering investing in or creating his own social media firm. Musk responded on March 28 to accusations that the content of journalist Chris Hedges was taken down when YouTube pulled footage from Russia-state media RT in the aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"I disagree with you, but I disagree even more with erasing your files. That is the essence of free speech." In response to the removal of videos, Musk commented on March 28.
Musk just tweeted "Oh hey hehe" after the investment was made public on Monday. Musk launched a second poll later Monday on the more straightforward question of whether Twitter should include an edit button. (Twitter's communications staff tweeted late Tuesday that the business had been working on an edit button for months and that the concept "didn't come from a poll.")
Musk had previously hinted at a longer timeline with his polls, where he had not publicly disclosed any stake in Twitter. Agrawal's statement that the conversations with Musk unfolded over weeks suggests a longer timeline than Musk had previously hinted at with his polls, where he had not publicly disclosed any stake in Twitter. Musk listed purchases of Twitter stock dating back to January 31 on a form filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Tuesday.
Musk's membership to Twitter's board of directors comes with a cap on the size of his ownership stake. Musk can possess up to 14.9 percent of the firm, according to a securities filing, ensuring that, at least for the time being, the Tesla and SpaceX owner cannot coordinate a hostile takeover of the corporation.
Musk's current 9.2 percent ownership isn't quite enough to give him control of the company, but it's enough for him to wield significant power and influence, according to Stephen Crimmins, a securities lawyer with McGonigle P.C. "With such a significant interest, Musk has enormous voting power and the capacity to influence how other existing shareholders vote," he said.
When a person buys such a substantial investment in a company, the topic of a board seat frequently arises, according to Crimmins. When the board learned of Musk's shareholding, they had two options: work with him or compel him to use his voting power to impose his will on the company. Twitter took the approach that was least unfriendly, welcomed Musk with open arms.
Twitter has kept things peaceful in the short run by capping Musk's stake and so limiting his power. If Musk is dissatisfied with his influence as a major shareholder and board member, he can step down from the board and acquire a larger interest, possibly even undertaking a hostile takeover, according to Crimmins.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the company's shares had risen roughly 30% from its Friday close.
Employees at Twitter, on the other hand, argued Musk's new stake all day Monday and into Tuesday. Some people were shocked by the company's latest shambles, while others responded with jokes and memes. Some feared that Musk's history of instability and disputes with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would simply lead to worse mismanagement at Twitter.
"Can we do anything about Elon being appointed to the board of directors?" One employee remarked on the company's internal chat system, "I know myself and a lot of others are frightened and outraged about this."