The ‘blue bird’ social media may have a new overlord watching over it in the not-so-distant future. It is the South African-born American-Canadian businessman, Elon Musk. It was reported by numerous news outlets that on April 14th 2022, he had proposed an offer to acquire the giant social media company estimated to be worth around $43 billion, making it the third largest tech company acquisition ever, if the deal went through. This has garnered different reactions throughout the world, whether it’s support or opposition.
Young Man from South Africa Chasing His Fortune
Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa to a South African engineer Errol Musk and an American model Maye Musk. From a young age, Musk had taken an interest in computing and computer programming. At 18 years old, he decided to move to Canada and applied to Queen’s University in Ontario before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania two years later. He graduated with a physics degree and an economics degree. In 1995, Musk was accepted at Stanford to study materials science, but decided to drop out after not even a week of attending to launch his startup.
Musk launched Zip2, a software company specializing in city guides. Zip2 proved to be very successful and was sold for $307 million. After that, he co-founded X.com, now known as PayPal. And it was sold for $1.5 billion in 2002. During his time in X.com, he took an interest in space exploration. In May 2002, Musk founded SpaceX, a company now seemingly making huge leaps in space technologies, such as reusable rockets. This landed him multiple multibillion dollar contracts with NASA to this day. In 2003, Musk got involved in funding developments of electric cars by Tesla, subsequently making him the chairman of Tesla.
He founded even more multimillion dollar companies after that, like The Boring Company, Neuralink, and more. He is undoubtedly a great businessman and a successful one at that. From all of his ventures, Musk has gained around $219 billion under his name, making him the richest individual in the world as of 2022.
Normal, Yet Controversial
Although very successful, Musk is a very controversial figure. He often makes controversial statements that have sparked public outrages. News outlets, such as Bloomberg and The Verge, have dubbed the guy ‘edgelord’ which means a person with provocative behavior, mainly on the internet. To most people, the word is an insult, but Musk embraced the term by changing his Twitter name to “Lorde Edge” once.
According to Forbes, more than fifty percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have little to no presence in social media. Even if they are present in social media, their online account may only be managed by their PR team. But, of course, Elon Musk takes a different approach. Using Twitter, while the average CEOs make well-written and highly professional statements that promote their work, Musk tweets like how normal, everyday users do. That is to say, very personal, funny, and random tweets.
This created a persona that Musk is just an average internet enjoyer that understands social media like any other youths and that he is more engaged with “the people.” However, this approach is very risky. When one person acts, it causes a reaction from other people, and the scale is exponential especially if that person is well-known. Normal, everyday tweets aren’t often fact-checked and may contain false information. Effects of misinformation might not be impactful if it comes from a random Twitter user that doesn’t receive enough attention, but if it comes from a high-profile figure, it may cause harm and danger to self-branding or to others. Unfortunately, Musk is very prone to this behavior.
Misinforming and Manipulating
In 2018, Musk tweeted that he would take Tesla private in a takeover and that he had secured the funding for it. For this, he was sued by the Security and Exchange Commission, citing that the tweet was false and was misleading information to investors. Tesla was fined $20 million and Musk was fined the same amount and also forced to step down as chairman.
During the start of the pandemic, Musk repeatedly shared his opinion on the virus. On March 6th, he tweeted that “The coronavirus panic is dumb.” A week later, he tweeted his prediction on the projection of Covid cases and stated that there will be “close to zero” cases in the US by “end of April.” In the same thread, he stated that, “kids are essentially immune” to the virus. Not only that, he also shared a news article claiming that doctors are inflating the case numbers “for financial reasons.” All of the statements were false.
In addition to misinformation, he is also criticized for manipulating the masses for his gains. Musk has used his platform to promote cryptocurrencies, especially Dogecoin. The values of cryptocurrencies shot up right after Musk casually tweeted about them. In February 2021, Musk tweeted, “Dogecoin is the people’s crypto.” Soon after, the price jumped 60% of the previous day’s value. This has caused him to be considered as doing market manipulation.
Where We Are Now
Now, Elon Musk is at the forefront of owning the ‘blue bird.’ Initially, he acquired the title of majority stakeholder for 9.1% worth around $2.64 billion. He then accepted a seat on the board of directors before suddenly U-turning on that decision and stated his intention to fully take over Twitter. On April 14, he offered $43 billion for the company. Twitter’s board of directors announced a ‘poison pill’ strategy, hoping it would discourage Musk. On April 25, Twitter accepted the offer.
To this day, the acquisition hasn’t been finalized with Musk stating that the deal was on hold. Several investigations were also opened regarding the purchase. But Musk is still committed to get the deal done.
Regarding his acquisition, Musk has stated that he wanted to bring changes to Twitter, such as increasing freedom of speech on the platform. This caused polarizing reactions from people. People that supported the deal consider this a win for free speech, while the opposition see this as encouragement for hate speech, misinformation, and online harassment. Musk pledged to reinstate accounts previously banned for those reasons. Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, has criticized Musk regarding his tendencies for spreading misinformation. US lawmakers are divided in their reactions according to which side of the floor they stand on.
With Musk at the helm of Twitter, with his free speech vision and unpredictable behavior, is he the right person?
On July 8, Elon Musk announced that he is terminating the acquisition of Twitter. In a filing, Musk and his lawyers stated that Twitter has breached their agreement and misled Musk during the negotiations. The unilateral termination came after Twitter refused Musk’s request for spambot account information and Twitter’s decision to dismiss several high-ranking Twitter executives and employees.
Twitter’s board of directors, seemingly unhappy with the decision, have decided to take the matter to court and try to force Musk into completing the previously-agreed acquisition. The Delaware Court of Chancery has scheduled the first hearing on July 19 where Twitter will be pushing for a trial in September of this year. Subsequently, Musk filed a motion to the court to reject the request and also suggested moving the trial to February of next year.
Penulis: Audi Faritz
Reporter: Audi Faritz
Editor: Fareez Eldacca
Foto: Fortune, Teslarati, Twitter, YouTube
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