Over the last seven days, Elon Musk has made headlines. But it’s not Tesla where he’s CEO he’s playing with this time. Instead, he has made waves around his recent investment in Twitter.
Last week’s news that he had bought enough Twitter shares to become the company’s largest single shareholder made viewers wonder how Musk, the outspoken tech mogul and self-described “freedom of speech absolute”, could try to change the direction of the company , which has identified harassment and misinformation as two of its moderation targets since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
True to the eccentric and bombastic Musk, the headlines did not end there. For seven days, Musk made big news with his statements and actions regarding the company and its future. At first, Musk seemed to confirm that he would join Twitter’s board, but days later, he and Twitter’s CEO reversed the decision with cryptic statements and tweets.
Here’s how the story has evolved so far.
4th of April: Musk reveals he has bought 9.2 percent of Twitter
On the morning of April 4, Musk submitted a regulatory application to the Securities and Exchange Commission, in which he noted his purchase of the Twitter shares. The filing said the purchase had taken place on March 14, meaning Musk submitted his application 10 days late under SEC rules.
When news of the application broke out, figures in the tech industry wondered how Musk could change the company as someone who had signed up as a “passive investor.” People also started reviewing Musk’s recent statements on Twitter.
On March 24, Musk had asked his followers if they thought Twitter adhered to the principle of freedom of speech, and followed up by saying, “The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.”
After filing his investment, Musk created further uproar when he tweeted and asked followers, “Do you want an edit button?” refers to a long-standing feature request from Twitter users and seems to signal that he was interested in making changes to the platform.
Twitter’s CEO, Parag Agrawal, quoted Musk’s poll on the edit button and copied his statement on March 24, writing: “The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.”
On Tuesday, Agrawal announced in a statement on Twitter that Musk had been given a seat on the board.
“Through conversations with Elon in recent weeks, it became clear to us that he would bring great value to our board,” he wrote. “He is both a passionate believer and an intense critic of the service, which is exactly what we need.”
Musk responded by tweeting, “I look forward to working with Parag and the Twitter Board to make significant improvements to Twitter in the coming months!” Later in the day, Musk filed yet another application with the SEC, indicating that he would take a more active role as an investor and that he had agreed not to buy more than 14.9 percent of the company. The more shares Musk owns, the easier it would be for him to potentially orchestrate the management of the company.
Same day, Twitter board members – including co-founder Jack Dorsey – tweeted their congratulations to Musk. “I’m really happy that Elon is joining the Twitter board,” Dorsey wrote. “He cares deeply about our world and Twitter’s role in it.”
Dorsey described Musk and Agrawal as an upcoming “team” that “both lead with their hearts.” Omid Kordestani and Bret Taylor, two other members, also tweeted welcoming Musk to the board.
Twitter announces that it is working on an ‘edit’ button
After Musk’s “edit-button” poll closed, over 4.4 million accounts had voted, of which 73.6 percent asked for the addition. On Wednesday, Twitter announced that it had been working on an edit button “since last year.”
“No, we did not get the idea from a poll,” the company’s tweet noted with a cheeky flashing emoji.
Jay Sullivan, Twitter’s head of consumer products, noted in another tweet“Edit has been the most requested Twitter feature for many years.”
At the same time, Musk was tweeting memes about his supposed influence on Twitter, including one that drew a link between Musk’s first big business move – “Selling Zip2 to Compaq for $ 305m” – and Twitter’s “finally” getting an edit button. Zip2 was Musk’s earliest business venture, which he sold in the late 1920s. The domino meme he posted suggests that Musk’s sale of the company and established his entrepreneurship was the first in a series of events that would eventually lead to Twitter adding the editing feature.
April 9: Musk asks if Twitter is dying
The weekend brought no slowdown from Musk.
On Saturday, Musk returned to his personal Twitter account with several concerns about the company. “Is Twitter dying?” he asked in a quote tweet showing the 10 most followed Twitter users. “Most of these ‘top’ accounts rarely tweet and post very little content.”
Musk called A-list entertainers Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber, who are the sixth and second most followed people on Twitter, respectively.
“For example, @ taylorswift13 hasn’t posted anything in 3 months,” Musk said. “And @justinbieber has only posted once all year.”
Musk then targeted the offerings in Twitter’s new subscription service, Twitter Blue, which costs $ 3 a month. Musk said he disabled the custom Twitter Blue feature, which stops a tweet from being sent immediately, giving users 20 seconds to reread and reconsider their tweets before posting.
Musk suggested that Twitter Blues service should instead give its subscribers a verified tick, which currently requires a person working on Twitter’s Verified team to approve. Musk said it should be “different from ‘public person’ or ‘official account'” check marks.
His idea would reduce the number of fake accounts and bots, Musk suggested.
“Now pull crypto-scam accounts that Twitter portrays as ‘real’ people in everyone’s feed,” Musk wrote in a reply to another user.
Then Musk said Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters should transformed into a shelter for people experiencing homelessness, “since no one shows up anyway.”
Musk also jokingly suggested that Twitter remove the letter “w” from his company to become “titter.” He even ran another poll to gauge interest.
Musk is known for his cheeky tweets, which are played for laughs, but which can get him and his companies in legal trouble. In September 2018, Musk decided with the SEC, after tweeting that he would take Tesla privately to $ 420 per share, citing the number associated with marijuana. The SEC accused Musk of securities fraud and accused Tesla of “not requiring checks and procedures regarding the disclosure of Musk’s tweets,” a charge that Tesla settled.
The terms of the settlement included Musk’s resignation as Tesla’s chairman, which required Tesla to hire additional independent directors and pay $ 40 million in fines.
April 10: Twitter’s CEO says Musk will not join the board after all
Late Sunday, Agrawal announced in a statement on Twitter that Musk would not join Twitter’s board. He wrote that it was Musk’s decision.
“We also believed that it was the best way forward to have Elon as a fiduciary for the company, where he, like all board members, must act in the best interests of the company and all our shareholders,” Agrawal wrote.
Agrawal wrote that his announcement on Tuesday had been “dependent on a background check and formal acceptance” and that Musk should have been officially appointed on Saturday morning.
“Elon shared the same morning that he would no longer be on the board,” Agrawal wrote. “I think that’s the best.”
Agrawal and the other Twitter board members reversed their initial approval of Musk’s appointment sometime after Musk tweeted criticizing the company. After Agrawal announced that Musk would no longer sit on the board, Musk tweeted – and later deleted – a giggling emoji.
It was not the only tweet that appeared to refer to or directly criticize Twitter that Musk deleted. He also deleted several critical tweets he had posted since filing his SEC application on April 4, including several on Twitter Blue. Musk also deleted a tweet there showed a picture of him smoking marijuana on Joe Rogan’s podcast with the caption “Twitter’s next board meeting gets lit.”
Musk so liked a tweet speculating that he would not join the board because he could not criticize Twitter at the same time. “Let me share this for you: Elon became the largest shareholder for Freedom of Expression. Elon was asked to play nicely and not speak freely,” the tweet says.
April 11: A new application says Musk can acquire more Twitter shares
In an archive posted Monday, Musk indicated he could buy more shares of Twitter following his decision not to join the board. “Depending on the factors discussed herein, the reporting person may from time to time acquire additional shares in ordinary shares and / or hold and / or sell all or part of the shares in ordinary shares in which the reporting person is owned. free market or in privately negotiated transactions, ‘the archive states.
The possibility could create a more hostile relationship between Twitter and Musk, according to analysts who spoke to CNBC on Monday.