(AP) — Elon Musk reached an agreement to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion on Monday, promising a more lenient touch to policing content on the social media platform where he — the world’s richest person — promotes his interests, attacks critics and opines on a wide range of issues to more than 83 million followers.
The outspoken Tesla CEO has said he wanted to own and privatize Twitter because he thinks it’s not living up to its potential as a platform for free speech.
Musk said in a joint statement with Twitter that he wants to make the service “better than ever” with new features while getting rid of automated “spam″ accounts and making its algorithms open to the public to increase trust.
“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,” the 50-year-old Musk said, adding hearts, stars and rocket emojis in a tweet that highlighted the statement.The more hands-off approach to content moderation that Musk envisions has many users concerned that the platform will become more of a haven for disinformation, hate speech and bullying, something it has worked hard in recent years to mitigate. Wall Street analysts said if he goes too far, it could also alienate advertisers.
The deal was cemented roughly two weeks after the billionaire first revealed a 9% stake in the platform. Musk said last week that he had lined up $46.5 billion in financing to buy Twitter, putting pressure on the company’s board to negotiate a deal.
Twitter said the transaction was unanimously approved by its board of directors and is expected to close in 2022, pending regulatory sign-off and the approval of shareholders.
Shares of Twitter Inc. 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 is up sharply since Musk made his offer, it is well below the high of $77 per share it reached in February 2021.Musk has described himself as a “free-speech absolutist” but is also known for blocking or disparaging other Twitter users who question or disagree with him.
In recent weeks, he has proposed relaxing Twitter content restrictions — such as the rules that suspended former President Donald Trump’s account — while ridding the platform of fake “spambot” accounts and shifting away advertising as its primary revenue model. Musk believes he can increase revenue through subscriptions that give paying customers a better experience — possibly even an ad-free version of Twitter.