“the bird is freed“
That was Elon Musk’s tweet about Twitter itself on October 28, the day after he acquired the company. It was a move that confused a lot of people. What could the Tesla owner possibly want with a social media platform like Twitter? The company was struggling to turn a profit even before Musk had any interest in buying it.
Granted, he had a clear addiction to the site and couldn’t keep off of it. If that’s the case, prolific Twitter users like Kanye West and Donald Trump—whose suspension from the app was just lifted by Musk, by the way—might as well be its new owners.
However, to anyone who has been keeping up with the Musk-Twitter saga, this $44 billion purchase wasn’t much of a surprise. Musk, the richest person in the world, has been teasing a Twitter takeover since April when he was revealed to be its largest shareholder. It was only a matter of when he would finally make good on his word. Or rather, when a lawsuit filed by Twitter’s former board of directors would force his hand.
It goes without saying that the acquisition has been filled with controversy from start to finish. Anything Elon Musk does is bound to create a few headlines. But if you’re unlike Twitter’s new owner and CEO and don’t have loads of time to follow his feed over the last few months, here’s what you missed.
The Twitter Takeover Saga of 2022
— March 25:
Elon Musk tweets about the importance of free speech in a functioning democracy and asks his followers if Twitter “adheres” to the principle.
“The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully,” he replies to his initial tweet.
— April 10
Parag Agrawal, Twitter’s former CEO, announces that Musk has declined an offer to join the Board of Directors. “Elon is our biggest shareholder and we will remain open to his input,” he adds.
— April 14
— April 25
Twitter’s board of directors publicly accept Musk’s proposal to acquire the company for $44 billion.
“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,” Musk explained in the official press release. The SpaceX founder also stated plans to add features to the platform and eradicate the bot accounts.
— May 13
Musk puts the massive deal on hold. He is dubious of the number of spam accounts, which is reportedly less than 5%. “Still committed to acquisition,” he later tweets.
However, his legal counsel later wrote a letter to Twitter threatening to terminate the deal, citing the company’s refusal to comply with Musk’s data requests.
— July 12
Twitter’s stock price dropped amidst the controversy. After some back and forth over spam accounts, Twitter retaliates and officially files a lawsuit against Elon Musk for trying to back out of the $44 billion acquisition.
“Musk refuses to honor his obligations to Twitter and its stockholders because the deal he signed no longer serves his personal interests,” explained Twitter’s lawyers. The lawsuit is a strategic move to enforce the agreement.
— October 4
Twitter’s legal recourse bears fruit—Elon Musk puts his original offer back on the table on the condition that the board will drop the expensive lawsuit against him.
He later states that buying Twitter could lay the foundation for X, which he described as “the everything app”.
— Oct 26
Musk makes a trip to Twitter headquarters with a kitchen sink, which has since become a meme. He also changed his bio to “Chief Twit”.
— Oct 27
The deal is done—Elon Musk buys Twitter for $44 billion. His first order of business is to clean the house. He immediately fires Parag Agrawal as CEO as well as other top-level executives, and names himself the new CEO of Twitter.
From Massive Layoffs to Paid Verification, Twitter Has Had a Lot of Changes
It has only been a month since Elon Musk bought and took over Twitter as its new CEO but the company has already seen drastic changes. After firing its executives, Musk announced further layoffs to cut costs in the failing company. Many employees found out they were being terminated in an email, or after they were locked out of Twitter’s internal communications systems.
“Regarding Twitter’s reduction in force, unfortunately, there is no choice when the company is losing over $4M/day,” he explained in a tweet. “Everyone exited was offered 3 months of severance, which is 50% more than legally required.”
Another major change for Twitter employees is a ban on remote work. The new CEO now requires staff to render a minimum of 40 hours in the office. It’s a major cultural change for the entire workforce, given that the work-from-home policy has been in place since the start of COVID-19. While disappointing, the move isn’t surprising coming from Elon Musk who has tweeted that remote work has “tricked people into thinking that you don’t actually need to work hard.”
While internal changes are happening at Twitter, massive updates are being rolled out on the platform as well. The most shocking, so far, is the paid verification service. Users can pay a monthly fee of $7.99 to get and keep their blue check.
Verified users like Stephen King expressed that they will not be paying the originally proposed amount of $20, but Elon Musk saw this as a way to make Twitter more profitable.
This update has already backfired in disastrous ways as users paid for verification to create parody accounts, including that of Musk himself. Perhaps the biggest mess it has created came after a verified but fake account of pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly tweeted, “We are excited to announce insulin is free now.” The fake tweet has caused the stock price to plummet by 4.37%.
In other breaking Twitter news, Elon Musk has reinstated the accounts of users who were previously on a permanent ban. These controversial figures—like Donald Trump, Kanye West, Andrew Tate—are mostly right-wing conspiracy theorists who were suspended from using the app for a reason.
The only account he hasn’t unbanned is Alex Jones. “My firstborn child died in my arms. I felt his last heartbeat,” he tweeted an explanation. “I have no mercy for anyone who would use the deaths of children for gain, politics or fame.” As relieved as we all are for never having to see another Alex Jones tweet again, it’s frustrating that the reason is that Musk is personally offended by the far-right radio host and not because he is as awful and opportunistic as Twitter’s new owner.
Can Elon Musk Keep Twitter Alive and Transform It Into a Super App?
There are many theories as to why Elon Musk acquired Twitter. He has been an avid user of the social media site since joining in 2010. He uses it to crowdsource ideas, create polls, share memes, and troll everyone from ordinary users to celebrities and politicians. He’s also used his account to create hype about a product like cryptocurrency assets and, as others have theorized, ‘pump and dump’ their value.
Suffice it to say that Musk has benefited from Twitter in a number of ways. However, the most likely reason that the billionaire bought the company is to turn it into a super app he plans to call X.
It’s a little off-brand for Elon Musk to be quiet about his new venture, but everything about this supposed everything app are just theories so far. The only thing he’s said is that acquiring Twitter is the first step to making X a real thing. If theories are correct, X is an app that is similar to China’s WeChat but for Western markets. Essentially, a super app allows users to do things you might need different apps for, such as communication, delivery services, retail, and even banking.
Personally, I think a super app has real value in any market, which the West doesn’t have yet. But the reason WeChat is so successful in China is that the country has banned many apps and social media sites from being used. WeChat found an opportunity to conglomerate different services into a single platform that is allowed in the country.
Meanwhile, Twitter has many competitors. It’s not even the leading social media site and has struggled to generate a profit despite its popularity. Elon Musk is also facing a new challenge of advertisers putting their Twitter campaigns on hold. But that’s a problem he created himself when he acquired the company and made drastic changes. Among those changes is loosening up content moderation, which allowed hate speech to flourish. Advertisers simply don’t want to associate their brands with racism, antisemitism, and sexism, among another negative -isms that the new Twitter is allowing under the guise of free speech.
If Elon Musk has any chance of reviving Twitter to transform it into the everything app X, the only one standing in the way is Elon Musk.