Musk’s Twitter property starts shooting, declaring ‘Bird has been freed’

  • Musk says ‘Altaïr was freed’ after a $44 billion deal
  • Musk fires Twitter CEO, CFO, and Head of Policy
  • Some Twitter users are indicating a willingness to walk away
  • Survey shows employee job concerns
  • EU warns: ‘This bird will fly according to our rules’

Oct 28 (Reuters) – Elon Musk took over Twitter (TWTR.N) with brutal efficiency, firing top CEOs but offering little clarity on how he will fulfill the ambitions he’s outlined for the influential social media platform.

“The bird is freed,” he wrote on Twitter after he completed the $44 billion acquisition Thursday, referring to Twitter’s bird logo in an apparent sign of his desire to see the company have fewer restrictions on the content that can be posted.

However, the chief executive of electric car maker Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) and the absolute absolute of free speech, said he also wanted to prevent the platform from becoming an echo chamber of hate and division.

Other goals include the desire to “defeat” Twitter spam programs and to make the algorithms that determine how content is delivered to their users publicly available.

However, Musk did not provide details on how he would achieve all this and who would run the company. He said he plans to cut jobs, leaving Twitter’s 7,500 employees worried about their future. He also said Thursday that he did not buy Twitter to make more money but to “try to help the humanity I love.”

In a poll running on the messaging app Blind about whether Twitter employees will be employed at the company within three months, less than 10% voted “yes.” Of the 266 participants, 38% said “no” and over 55% chose the “popcorn” option. Blind allows employees to send anonymous messages to express their grievances where people can sign up using their company emails.

Musk has fired Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, and head of legal and policy Vijaya Jade, according to people familiar with the matter. He accused them of misleading him and misleading Twitter investors about the number of fake accounts on the platform.

The sources added that Agrawal and Sejal were at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters when the deal was closed and they were escorted.

Citing a person familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported that Musk, who also runs the rocket company SpaceX, plans to become the CEO of Twitter after completing the acquisition and also plans to unblock users permanently.

Twitter, Musk, and executives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“CHIEF TWIT”

Before the deal was struck, Musk walked into Twitter headquarters on Wednesday with a big smile and a porcelain sink, then tweeted, “Let this sink in.” He changed his Twitter profile description to “Chief Twit”.

He also tried to allay employee fears of massive layoffs, assuring advertisers that his earlier criticism of Twitter’s content moderation rules would not hurt its appeal.

“It is clear that Twitter cannot become a free place for everyone, where anything can be said without consequences!” Musk said in an open letter to advertisers on Thursday.

As news of the deal spread, some Twitter users were quick to report their willingness to walk away.

“I’d be happy to leave on a pulse if Musk behaves, well, as we all expect,” said a user with the @mustlovedogsxo account.

European regulators also reiterated previous warnings that, under Musk’s leadership, Twitter must still comply with the region’s Digital Services Act, which imposes heavy fines on companies if they do not control illegal content.

“In Europe, the bird will fly according to EU rules,” EU industry chief Thierry Breton said Friday morning, posting in a self-respond a short video of Breton and Musk after their meeting last May.

Pointing to the challenges ahead, Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut, who was banned from Twitter last year for violating its rules on hateful and abusive behaviour, praised Musk’s takeover of Instagram and shared requests to her fans to get her account back.

Musk also said in May that he would rescind the ban on Donald Trump, which was removed after the attack on the US Capitol. The former US president said he would not return to the platform, and instead launched his own social media app, Truth Social.

A representative for Trump did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Musk has indicated that he sees Twitter as the basis for creating a “super app” that offers everything from money transfers to shopping and transportation services.

But Twitter struggles to engage its most active users, who are vital to business. These “heavy tweeters” account for less than 10% of total monthly users but generate 90% of all tweets and half of global revenue.

saga

The road to the deal to fruition was littered with twists and turns that raised doubts as to whether it would ever happen. It began on April 4, when Musk disclosed a 9.2% stake in Twitter, becoming the company’s largest shareholder.

The world’s richest person then agreed to join Twitter’s board of directors, but declined at the last minute and offered to buy the company in place of $54.20 per share, an offer that Twitter thought might have been Musk’s jokes about cannabis.

Musk’s offer was real, and over the course of just one weekend later in April, the two sides reached an agreement at the proposed price. This happened without Musk taking any due diligence on the company’s confidential information.

In the weeks that followed, Musk had other ideas. He publicly complained about spam accounts on Twitter and his lawyers accused Twitter of not complying with his requests for information on the matter.

The acrimony led to Musk telling Twitter on July 8 that he had closed the deal. Four days later, Twitter sued Musk to force him to complete the acquisition.

By then, the stock market had been plunged into worries about a possible recession. Twitter accused Musk of remorse for the buyer, arguing that he wanted to get out of the deal because he thought he overpaid.

Most legal analysts said Twitter has the strongest arguments and is likely to prevail in court.

On October 4, just as Twitter’s lawyers were set to topple Musk’s dismissal, he made another turn, offering to complete the deal as he had promised. He managed to do this, just a day before the deadline set by the judge to avoid going to trial.

Twitter shares ended trading Thursday 0.3% higher at $53.86, just below the agreed-upon price. The stock will be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.

Reuters Graphics Reuters

(Shila Dang and Greg Rumiliotis report) in New York; Additional reporting by Tanvi Mehta in New Delhi and Myung Kim in Singapore. Editing by Nick Ziminsky, Edwina Gibbs, and Matt Skovham

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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