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A Little Birdy Told Me: The Elon Musk-Twitter buyout saga

Deputy Editor of Grapeshot, Jackson Robb, takes you through the Elon Musk-Twitter buy-out online saga.


Home to the famous little blue bird who loves to provide users with their morning news, Twitter has become a platform so connected to the lives of its users. Through algorithms and preferences, the app tailors its experience to users’ interests whilst also providing a space to stay connected about trending topics, and not-so trending movements that saw former president Trump banned from the platform last year. However, it’s not often that Twitter itself is the subject of news stories, but on 25 April 2022, billionaire, Tesla CEO, and former SNL host, Elon Musk, struck a deal to purchase the company for USD $44 Billion.


The news of the Musk/Twitter deal triggered many alarm bells, most notably that a businessman like Musk can use his wealth to control a platform that advocates for free speech, especially considering that his range prior to the deal consisted of launching rockets and featuring in Rick and Morty episodes. Musk has also been updating his millions of followers of the deal’s progress on Twitter, using memes and gifs to undermine the seriousness of this deal and what it could mean for free speech around the world. But, just as quickly as the deal emerged, so too was it dissected, picked apart, and eventually abandoned, leaving Musk and Twitter battling over who should accept control of the mess that is Twitter.


No stranger to the Twitter landscape, Musk has been an active user on the platform since 2009, accumulating over 100 million followers from his projects such as SpaceX and Tesla. However, his motivations for purchasing Twitter seemed left field of what the public was used to seeing from Musk’s standard displays of wealth. His intentions were outlined in a TED talk: “[H]aving a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilization”. [1]


Furthermore, Musk states that by increasing trust in Twitter, civilizational risk is decreased, saying “I think it’s very important for there to be an inclusive arena for free speech”. The comparison to an arena contrasts the aim of Musk’s intention, as if he views Twitter as a game to be played rather than a platform that fosters free speech. The features Musk wishes to incorporate include editing tweets and showing history of edited tweets in an aim to avoid banning users. He previously spoke of Trump’s banishment as foolish and “flat out stupid”. [2]


Users expressed concern over Musk’s acquisition, suggesting it would encourage fascist themes of dictatorial power and cater towards Musk’s political alignments. For many who use Twitter as a source of news, Musk’s acquisition could see oppositional news outlets less available to users, potentially skewing public opinion on relevant issues and topics. One book discusses the matter of social media privatisation further, suggesting that whilst platforms “enforce their own private rules … they have to do so while also dealing with the laws and courts of the places they operate in”. [3]


For the millions of Twitter users living outside of the US, Twitter’s policies under Musk could encourage destructive behaviour, with Australia being a key example of a nation that does not have specific protection of free speech in statute. Musk claims in the TED conversation that free speech exists “when someone you don’t like says something you don’t like” - and whilst there may be merit in this statement, his careless attitude towards the economics of Twitter, not just in the US, could be detrimental to current perceptions on free speech.


Whilst Musk controlling Twitter would raise serious concerns about authority and the distribution of media, these concerns were dismissed when new revelations emerged that Musk had doubts about his deal with Twitter and their inability to disclose information about how many bots were on the platform. The breakdown of the deal was ironically broadcast via Musk’s Twitter account, stating “My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate”, suggesting that because Twitter CEO refused to show proof, “this deal cannot move forward until he does”. [4] Musk continued his viral slander of the platform over the course of May, as bots pose a risk to Twitter as they are proven to generate and spread misinformation.


Twitter adopts bots to perform various services and claims less than 5% of its users are bots. However, the lack of transparency from Twitter executives has resulted in Musk’s retreat from the deal, a move Twitter suggests is Musk looking for an opportunity to back out. Musk and Twitter both agreed to a one-billion-dollar payout if either party reversed the terms of the agreement, an arrangement that will now be discussed in court as Twitter filed a lawsuit against Musk in July for breach of contract. [5]


Musk’s lawyers wrote in a filing to the Security and Exchange Commission that “Mr. Musk has provided numerous additional follow-up requests” regarding the gaps in information relating to the bots, only to be met with “incomplete data that was not sufficient to perform such an independent assessment”. [6]


Musk claims Twitter has breached the terms of their contract by not providing all necessary data and thus has grounds to retreat from the deal. Within a week of Musk’s exit from the deal, Twitter announced they would sue and hold Musk accountable to “his contractual obligations”. Over the coming months, the Musk/Twitter deal will take new forms as the inner workings of Twitter will be revealed as subpoenas begin to be sent. In most recent news, Musk countersued Twitter, with details not yet available to the public. [7]


With a trial set for October 24, Musk and Twitter will both appeal their side of the deal, as the rest of us log in and summarise our thoughts in 140 characters.






[1] Youtube.Com, 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdZZpaB2kDM&t=1658s&ab_channel=TED.

[2] Staff, Al. “Elon Musk Says He Would Lift Trump’S Twitter Ban”. Aljazeera.Com, 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/ news/2022/5/10/elon-musk-says-he-would-lift-trump-twitter-ban.

[3] Corredoira y Alfonso, Loreto et al. The Handbook Of Communication Rights, Law, And Ethics.

[4] 2022, https://twitter.com/elonmusk?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor.

[5] Hirsch, Lauren. “Elon Musk’S Deal For Twitter Includes A $1 Billion Breakup Fee.”. Nytimes.Com, 2022, https://www. nytimes.com/2022/04/26/technology/twitter-musk-breakup-fee.html.

[6]www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/0001494730/000110465922078413/tm2220599d1_ex99-p.htm

[7] “Elon Musk Countersues Twitter Over $44Bn Deal Amid Fresh Legal Action By Shareholder”. The Guardian, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2022/jul/30/elon-musk-countersues-twitter-44bn.

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