Elon Musk has officially taken control of Twitter for $44 billion, ushering in an uncertain new era for this major influencer platform, under the leadership of the richest man in the world, who frightens as much as he fascinates.
Enthusiastic or disappointed reactions
“Let the party begin,” tweeted the boss of Tesla (electric vehicles) and SpaceX (spaceflight), a big fan of provocations, on Friday. He had already launched “the bird is released”, Thursday evening, after having dismissed the management team of the Californian company.
The reactions, enthusiastic or disappointed, have multiplied, but the most resounding is that of General Motors (GM). The automaker said Friday it was temporarily stopping paying for ads on Twitter, becoming the first major advertiser to question its presence on the social network.
Elon Musk, ultimate defender of freedom of expression?
“We are talking with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under its new owner,” explained the group, a direct competitor of Tesla. Elon Musk has set himself up as the ultimate defender of freedom of expression, raising fears of a resurgence of abuse (harassment, racism, misinformation) on the application.
In particular, he opened the door to a return of Donald Trump, ousted from Twitter after supporting his supporters who took part in the assault on Capitol Hill in January 2021. However, the brands, which represent the bulk of Twitter’s income, prefer generally back their ads with consensual content.
On Friday, the new owner tried to reassure by announcing the upcoming formation of a “content moderation council with very diverse points of view”. “No major decision on content or account reactivation will take place without the intervention of the council,” said the multi-billionaire.
“The merger between Twitter and X Holdings II”, a company “controlled by Elon Musk, was finalized on October 27”, notified the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Friday morning. “All shares of Twitter were exchanged for $54.20 in cash,” she said.
No use of violence
Elon Musk had until Friday to complete the acquisition of the social network, failing which a trial was to take place in November. The deal had been dragging on since late April, when Twitter reluctantly accepted the contractor’s takeover offer, which then sought to get out of it.
The company’s board of directors had taken legal action, and earlier this month, days before the start of a lawsuit that Twitter looked set to win, Elon Musk finally offered to close the deal at the price initially agreed.
On Thursday, Elon Musk tried to clarify his vision, saying he wanted to allow all opinions to be expressed on the site, without making it an “infernal” platform where everything would be allowed.
It is “important for the future of civilization to have an online public square where a wide variety of opinions can debate in a healthy way, without resorting to violence”, he wrote in a message specifically addressed to advertisers.
Twitter, which had 238 million so-called “active” daily users at the end of June, attracts a smaller audience than a giant like Facebook, but many policymakers, businesses and the media. EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has warned the billionaire that Twitter will have to comply with new EU digital regulations that force major platforms to moderate their content.
“In Europe the bird will fly according to our European rules,” Mr Breton tweeted.