This article was originally published by Vanity Fair.
Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, now owns one of the world’s most powerful platforms. The tech magnate’s $44 billion bid to buy Twitter closed Thursday, according to multiple reports, the culmination of an on-again, off-again deal that began six months ago and often played out, fittingly, over Twitter. Musk is quickly putting his stamp on the company, having already reportedly fired several top executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal and chief financial officer Ned Segal.
Musk originally proposed taking Twitter private back in April, offering $54.20 a share in cash, and claimed he was “not playing the back-and-forth game.” But that was arguably exactly what he proceeded to do, taking aim at Twitter executives and board members (again, over Twitter), complaining about the prevalence of spam bots on the platform, and, eventually, trying to back out of the acquisition altogether.
Musk’s lawyer in July claimed that Twitter made “misleading representations” regarding the number of spam accounts on its platform—Twitter has said it is lower than five percent of users—and had not “complied with its contractual obligations” to provide information about how to evaluate the presence of such fake accounts. The letter immediately set off a legal battle, with Twitter chairman Bret Taylor declaring the company would “pursue legal action to enforce the merger agreement” (which came with a $1 billion breakup fee), followed by Twitter suing Musk a few days later. Then in September, a trove of messages Musk exchanged with a cast of characters about the Twitter deal before it imploded—including podcaster Joe Rogan, Twitter’s recently departed CEO Jack Dorsey, and Florida governor Ron DeSantis—was released to the public. And just a month later, right before Musk was set to be deposed in preparation for a trial, the Tesla CEO finally decided to proceed with the Twitter deal, proposing a price point of $54.20 a share, just as he had in April.
Now that Musk has officially purchased Twitter, myriad questions remain as to what he’ll actually do with the company, from content moderation to mass layoffs to the potential return of Donald Trump (Musk has said he’d reverse the former president’s ban). Musk, a self-proclaimed “free speech absolutist,” has suggested he’ll weaken Twitter’s content moderation policies—a recurring theme in his private messages. Over text, Rogan asked Musk whether he would “liberate Twitter from the censorship happy mob,” while Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner encouraged the tech billionaire to create a “marketplace of algorithms” so that “if you’re a snowflake and don’t want content that offends you pick another algorithm.” Musk’s reported plans for the takeover also include gutting nearly 75 percent of Twitter’s 75,000 workers, according to the Washington Post—a move that could significantly hinder the company’s ability to moderate harmful content and prevent hacks.