Elon Musk bought a 9.2% stake in Twitter after running a Twitter poll in which he asked his followers if they believed Twitter supported the concept that free speech is vital to a democracy. 70.4% of respondents voted “No.”
“The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully,” he said in a follow-up tweet.
After the poll closed, Musk floated the idea of creating his own social media platform. The downside of such a thing is that it can be notoriously difficult for an alternative social media platform to gain traction. Some platforms, such as Gab.com and Minds.com, can easily become seen as echo chambers from right-wingers who worry about being banned from Twitter.
Both Facebook and Twitter have often been accused of censoring content based on political views rather than simply offering a level playing field for discussion. Minds.com had this to say:
Elon Musk appears to have had more run-ins with regulators than with Twitter’s algorithms over his tweets. In 2018, he reached a settlement with the SEC over an old tweet in which he considered taking Tesla private. (He has since admitted that taking Tesla private would be impossible.) The SEC has since repeatedly investigated a couple of Musk’s tweets, which regulators said violated the settlement and may have manipulated Tesla’s price. Even at least one Tesla investor alleged that Tesla failed to hire a lawyer who could control Musk’s tweeting in a lawsuit.
Elon Musk’s clout on Twitter even before his purchase of the 9.2% Twitter stake could be a factor. He has 80 million followers. Although he has made several ill-considered tweets even outside of his tweeting about Tesla’s stock, Twitter may be following the same pattern with Musk as it followed with Donald Trump. Twitter had refused to suspend Trump until after the January 6, 2021, riot that briefly took over the U.S. Capitol despite numerous calls to do so.
On the flip side, Twitter has suspended several accounts with less clout for simply expressing an opinion.
Although some people replying to Musk’s tweet did accuse him of hypocrisy due to his firing of an employee who published video of Tesla’s internal Full Self-Driving software tests, others floated the possibility that the employee had violated an NDA by leaking sensitive information.
Elon Musk has often been critical of Silicon Valley and its Big Tech companies. He posted a meme comparing current Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal to Joseph Stalin soon after Jack Dorsey stepped down, leaving Agrawal in charge.
“It looks like [Musk] has his eyes laser set on Twitter,” said Dan Ives, a Wedbush analyst, soon after news of Elon Musk’s acquisition of a 9.2% Twitter stake broke.
Musk reportedly spent $3 billion on his acquisition of the Twitter stake, which is reportedly the largest by a single Twitter shareholder. Twitter stock surged 27% in intraday trading when the news broke. Given his previous statements, it’s likely that he aims to gain more direct control over a major social media platform.
And even if his $3 billion bet on successfully reforming Twitter fails, it will likely be a drop in the bucket. He surged past aerospace rival Jeff Bezos for Forbes’ top slot as Earth’s richest man months ago.