The prospective purchase of Twitter has been big news since Musk disclosed his growing ownership stake in April 2022. Beginning in January, Musk—the “richest man in the world” after a controversial payout from Tesla—began purchasing stock shares of Twitter. By mid-March, he was the company’s largest shareholder with 9.2%. Foreshadowing Musk’s prolonged saga of flip-flopping, Musk accepted a role on Twitter’s board of directors, before 5-days later deciding not to join after all.
Ten days after disclosing his ownership share, Musk announced his intention to purchase Twitter in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. “I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
On April 25, 2022, Twitter accepted Musk’s purchase at $44 billion. Over the next 10 days, Musk made many promises, relying on familiar neo-liberal refrains that claim privatization and free-market principles would drastically improve the platform’s profitability. So far, this has not come to pass.
After reaching a legally binding agreement, Musk reneged on his word, claiming—wrongly—that Twitter had misled him on the overall number of active users on the site. In an announcement to a court in Delaware, Twitter sued that the deal must be completed. Twitter’s lawyers did not mince words, noting that, “Musk refuses to honor his obligations to Twitter and its stockholders because the deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests…Musk apparently believes… is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away.”
In late October, in the final days before the Delaware court hearings would begin, Musk finally agreed to honor his word and purchase Twitter for his initial $44B offer. After months of legal back-and-forth, Musk was now the owner of Twitter. Then the real controversy began. Musk has been in “hard core” mode since.
Musk’s “Hard Core” Mode
“Your Role at Twitter,” read the subject line of an email sent on November 4th to approximately half of the company’s 7,500 employees, letting them know that they had been laid off. While he didn’t use the tagline from The Apprentice—”You’re Fired”—the result was the same.
Five days after the wanton layoffs, Musk announced the new “Twitter Blue” service to little fanfare. The service would allow the coveted blue check to now be purchased for $8 a month. Less than a month later, the service was suspended after a flurry of fake accounts impersonating real people polluted the platform. Musk claims the service will be “punted” to November 29th.
The controversy keeps coming after Musk sent a company-wide email demanding employees submit to “be[ing] extremely hardcore…working long hours at high intensity,” or quit. Many of Twitter’s already reduced team quit. Maybe they aren’t “hardcore” enough to impress their new boss’ outsized self-belief that he is a Disciple in the Church of Hustle Culture. Will Elon get lonely if nobody comes to his at-your-desk sleepovers?
Combined with the staff cuts and resignations because of Musk’s “leadership,” advertisers have been running for the hills. Big-name companies have paused or stopped their advertising partnerships entirely with the platform including VW, General Mills, and others. The Washington Post reported that fake posts from accounts impersonating advertising partners have cost the company a deal with Eli Lilly, the large pharmaceutical company.
The fake tweet impersonating Eli Lilly read, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” If only this wasn’t fake!
With the drastic reduction in content moderation staff, Twitter could be removed from Apple and Android’s App Stores for violating their Terms of Agreement, which would be disastrous for the company. For example, Musk’s recent tweet on the attack on the Pelosi residence was packed with fake news and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that moderators should have flagged. In Musk’s world, all speech, regardless of validity, is protected as free speech.
The saga continues and perhaps Musk will right the ship. Until then, look out for our article on trying Mastodon…</p