Elon Musk, the technological visionary often called America’s “mad scientist,” purchased Twitter for $44-billion on Monday, April 25th. After negotiation with the company’s board, Twitter stockholders are expected to receive $54.20 in cash for each share of the company’s stock at the deal’s finalization.
The transaction was unanimously approved by Twitter’s board of directors but must be reviewed by acquisition regulators, either the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Justice Department, and receive approval from remaining stockholders.
Musk’s offer prices shares at a 38% markup from their value as of April 1st, 2022, when the multi-billionaire announced his stake in Twitter, an offer unlikely to be ignored by stakeholders. Officials do not expect Government intervention because Musk’s bid isn’t about removing competition from the social media industry. William Kovacic, a former chair of the FTC, explains this in a statement to the New York Times.
“It seems to me he has a major stake in two transportation companies at the moment, and it’s hard to see how Twitter has much to do with either one of them,” said Kovacic.
Elon's Plan For Twitter
Musk outlines his intentions for Twitter in a later tweet which he sourced from his own press release.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Musk. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”
Even if you disagree with Musk’s vision for less censorship in social media, preventing bots from muddling up the Twittersphere is an objectively good thing to strive for. Social media was designed to encourage human interaction and engagement. An army of bots with potentially nefarious intentions detracts from this purpose.
Twitter bot concern hit a peak in 2020 when Carnegie Mellon University found that nearly half of all accounts tweeting about the Coronavirus pandemic were bots. Estimates of the bot population of Twitter are hard to calculate and vary widely. A 2017 study approximated that 15% of all Twitter users are bots, while a 2022 random sample study suggests the number could be up to 18%.
The comedian and American commentator Joe Rogan has discussed the implications of Musk’s Twitter epic with multiple guests on his podcast The Joe Rogan Experience. First, he responded in real-time to the news of Musk’s purchase during his interview with comedian Jessica Kirson. Then, Rogan explains how he sees current Twitter policy as a threat to free speech and how Musk’s ownership will be essential to our country’s democracy.
“Here’s why that’s going to be interesting. He believes that free speech is important, not just important but vital for democracy, for a functioning democracy, and I agree with that,” said Rogan. “We’ve found out some things about Twitter, and one of the things they do is shadow-ban people. So they make it so whatever you put out, your content, has less impact, it has less engagement. They limit your ability to express yourself. They ban accounts. And they ban accounts if the account says something that they don’t agree with. If the account says something that violates what they believe. Also, this ability to shadow ban people has to be exposed. ”
It’s no secret that Musk is an “all-in” public figure for most Americans; people either love him or hate him. As the richest man globally, some hold him primarily responsible for the world’s wealth gap and think he could put his fortune to better use. Some knock him for spreading what many believe to be misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic. Some lost their faith in Musk forever when he publicly smoked weed on the Joe Rogan Experience.
Twitter users began threatening to delete their accounts as part of a mass exodus as soon as Musk’s negotiation saga began earlier this month. Musk’s goal to reduce censorship on Twitter to preserve the freedom of speech has many fearing negative repercussions.
Search trends concerning Monday’s accepted bid suggest that this might be more than empty threats. A new analysis of Google Trends by AskGamblers.com holds that public interest in deleting the app exploded to nine times the average volume in one day in the wake of the $44 billion deal. This sentiment extended consistently to trend analyses worldwide.
This looks like great news for Twitter competitors like Mastodon, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. Search trends of “Twitter alternatives” in the week proceeding and Musk’s accepted bid show a similarly explosive rise.
Scanning Twitter’s #DeleteTwitter hashtag is a good indicator of how users feel, ironic as the hashtag is. Users are casting their frustrations into the digital void. Some are using the opportunity to amass followers and retweets, while supporters of the takeover are bad-mouthing those that fear it.
The #DeleteTwitter movement is becoming yet another opportunity for political division. Supporters like @jaber_jena feel that leaving Twitter amid Musk’s purchase is an example of the so-called “snowflake” culture used to slander left-leaning youth.
American comic-book author Chuck Wendig addresses his 180 thousand followers about the deal, tweeting, “Good night, Twitter. Good work. Sleep well. I’ll most likely delete you in the morning.”
Musk, no stranger to public disapproval, welcomes the public discourse surrounding his proposed future for Twitter. He considers the hate from his detractors as an example of the free-speech social media platform he aims to create.
“I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”
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