Elon Musk has reached an agreement to buy Twitter and privately adopt it

Elon Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter for nearly $44 billion on Monday, promising a more lenient touch to censor content on the social media platform where – the world’s richest person – promotes his interests, attacks critics and opens up on a wide range of issues to his more than 83 million followers.

The outspoken Tesla CEO has said he wants to own and privatize Twitter because he believes it does not live up to its potential as a platform for free speech.

In a joint statement with Twitter, Musk said he wants to make the service “better than ever” with new features while eliminating automated “spam accounts” and making its algorithms open to the public to increase trust.

“Freedom of speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital city arena where matters vital to the future of humanity are discussed,” said the 50-year-old, adding Hearts, stars and rockets emojis In a tweet she highlighted the statement.

The laissez-faire approach to moderating the content that Musk envisions worries many users that the platform will become more of a haven for disinformation, hate speech and bullying, something she has worked hard in recent years to mitigate. If he goes too far, Wall Street analysts said, he may also alienate advertisers.

The deal was cemented nearly two weeks after the billionaire first revealed a 9% stake in the platform. Musk said last week that he raised $46.5 billion to fund the purchase of Twitter, which pressured the company’s board of directors to negotiate a deal.

Twitter said the deal was unanimously approved by its board of directors and is expected to close in 2022, pending regulatory and shareholder approval.

Twitter Inc. shares rose. More than 5% Monday to $51.70 per share. On April 14, Musk announced an offer to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share. While the stock has risen sharply since Musk made his bid, it’s well below the high of $77 per share in February 2021.

Musk has described himself as the “absolute of free speech” but is also known for blocking or belittling other Twitter users from asking or disagreeing with him.

In recent weeks, he has suggested easing restrictions on Twitter content — such as rules that suspended former President Donald Trump’s account — while ridding the platform of fake “spambot” accounts and shifting ads away from its core revenue model. Musk thinks he can boost revenue with subscriptions that give paying customers a better experience — and maybe even an ad-free version of Twitter.

Asked during a recent TED interview if there are any limits to his concept of “freedom of speech,” Musk said Twitter will comply with national laws that restrict expression around the world. Furthermore, he said he would be “very reluctant” to delete posts or permanently ban users who break company rules.

It wouldn’t be perfect, Musk added, “but I think we really want him to have the realization and reality that the talk is as free as reasonably possible.”

After the deal was announced, the NAACP issued a statement urging Musk not to allow Trump, the 45th president, to return to the podium.

“Do not allow the 45 to return to the stage,” the civil rights organization said in a statement. “Don’t allow Twitter to become a petri dish of hate speech or lies that undermine our democracy.”

As both a candidate and president, Trump has made Twitter a powerful speaker to speak directly to the public, often using inflammatory and divisive language on hot issues. He was permanently banned from service following the storming of the Capitol on January 6.

Advertisers, currently Twitter’s primary clients, have also pushed into the stronger content rules that Musk has criticized. Making them happy requires moderation, curbing hate speech, so brands don’t try to promote their products alongside “calls of genocide,” said Siva Vaidhyanathan, a professor of media studies at the University of Virginia.

“If Musk fires the Twitter team or kicks him away from Twitter that is committed to keeping it clean and making it less hateful, he will see an immediate drop in user activity,” Vaidhyanathan said. “I think he will find very quickly that inviting fanatics again is bad for business.”

On Monday, some users said they were planning to exit the platform if Musk acquired it. He responded on Twitter: “I hope even my worst critic remains on Twitter, because that’s what freedom of speech is.”

Musk also ran into trouble with federal officials as a result of his tweets, some of which used to taunt regulators at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In one August 2018 tweet, for example, Musk asserted that he had secured the financing to acquire Tesla for $420 a share, even though the court ruled that was untrue. This led to a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation, which Musk is still fighting. Recently, Musk appeared to have violated SEC rules requiring him to disclose his acquisition of a 5% stake in Twitter; Instead he waited until he got over 9%. Experts say these issues are unlikely to affect his Twitter acquisition.

While Twitter’s user base of more than 200 million is still much smaller than that of competitors like Facebook and TikTok, the service is popular with celebrities, world leaders, journalists and pundits. Musk himself is a prolific megaphone with a following that rivals many pop stars in the ranks of the most popular accounts.

Last week, he said in SEC documents that the money will come from Morgan Stanley and other banks, some of which are guaranteed by his huge stake in the electric car company Tesla he runs.

Musk has a fortune of nearly $268 billion, most of which is linked to shares in Tesla and SpaceX, his private space company. It’s unclear how much cash Musk holds.

Musk began making his fortune in 1999 when he sold Zip2, an online map and business directory, to Compaq for $307 million. He used his stake to create what would become PayPal, the internet service that bypassed banks and allowed consumers to pay businesses directly. It was sold to eBay for $1.5 billion in 2002.

That same year, Musk founded Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, after finding that cost constraints were limiting NASA’s interplanetary travel. The company eventually developed cost-effective reusable rockets.

In 2004, Musk was invited to invest in Tesla, then a startup trying to build an electric car. Eventually he became CEO and led the company to astronomical success as the world’s largest automaker and largest seller of electric vehicles.

Musk’s pledge to make Twitter a haven for free speech may reduce the appeal of Donald Trump’s troubled Truth Social app, which the former president has described as a Twitter competitor that would cater to conservatives. Truth Social is part of Trump’s new media company, which has agreed to be put up by Digital World Acquisition Corp. DWAC shares are down 16.2% on Monday and are down 46% since Musk disclosed his stake on Twitter.

Krecher reported from Detroit. O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island. Associated Press business writers Marcy Gordon in Washington, Barbara Ortutay in Oakland, California, and Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

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