Innovative tech billionaire Elon Musk helped Twitter shares soar by 27% when he took a 9.2% stake in the business. Elon Musk is now the largest shareholder in the social media company with nearly 73.5 million Twitter shares.

South African born American, Elon Musk has risen to prominence through multiple business ventures. Namely co-founding Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink, and The Boring Company. Despite initial scepticism, the entrepreneur has helped Tesla become a powerhouse in the car manufacturing industry. The electric car maker now produces the second most popular model of car in the UK.

Elon Musk is known, not only as the world’s richest person, but history’s richest person. His net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $271.3 billion. In recent years Elon musk has become a cultural and celebrity icon. He has appeared in TV shows such as; South Park, Rick and Morty, and The Simpsons. But, perhaps he is most known for his appearances on the Joe Rogan Podcast, where he shared his innovative ideas, such as the brain chip startup Neuralink. However, Elon Musk has not escaped controversy.

After his appearance on the podcast in 2018, in which he smoked cannabis live on air, Tesla’s stock dropped by over 9%. This coupled with the rise in Twitter’s share price shows just how influential this single person can be, to the success, or failure of a company. Twitter users will be familiar with Musk, as he is often trending after Tweeting to his 80.7 million followers. So large is his influence, that the securities and exchange commission monitors his tweets, as he has the power to move markets.

Elon Musk and Free Speech

In recent times Musk has taken an active role in championing free speech principles after a number of high-profile individuals were banned from the platform. This included former president Donald Trump and the founder and CEO of Project Veritas, James Edward O’Keefe. Former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey was also accused of election meddling when the social media platform blocked stories alleging corruption against Joe Biden.

Jack Dorsey alleged that they made the move, as they believed the story to have leaked from hacked materials, and they did not want to host hacked materials. Many believe Musk’s decision to become Twitter’s largest shareholder, was an attempt to strengthen free speech.

In March 2022, Musk asked Twitter users:

“Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?”

And, in a separate tweet Musk glimpsed at his future plans by stating:

“The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.”

The poll which had over two million votes showed that 70.4% did not believe Twitter adheres to that principles. Mere days after the poll ended on the 25th of March, it was announced that Musk had purchased a stake in Twitter, amounting to $3 billion. Musk’s stake gives him tremendous leverage over the social media platform as the biggest stakeholder.

Elon Musks’ new stake in Twitter sent conversation into overdrive amongst social media users, the media, and Youtube social commentators. Many championed the investment, as a move toward greater free speech on the social media platform. However, others shared their concerns about his meaningful stake in Twitter.

It has been speculated that fewer speech regulations on the social media platform would give rise to hate speech and harassment. Others suggested this was less about upholding free speech, and more about claiming power and control. Bloomberg Opinion senior columnist Tim O’Brien stated:

“I suspect there’s something more serious informing Musk’s decision to invest in Twitter, even if he revels in buffoonery: Maybe he wants to bring Twitter to heel”

O’Brien continued:

“But Musk probably isn’t in this for the money. He’s in it to make a point. And he’s in it to scare Twitter’s management.”

Twitter versus new social media startups

This new shake-up in the social media sphere follows Donald Trump’s new social media platform Truth Social. Trump previously spoke about his move to create the new social media platform:

“I created Truth Social… to stand up to the tyranny of big tech,”

Donald Trump was banned from Twitter as tweets were allegedly in violation of the Glorification of Violence Policy. Namely calling US capital rioters patriots, and calling into question the legitimacy of his election defeat.

However, the platform has been branded a disaster after a slew of technical faults and a waiting list of 1,419,631. Many believed Musk would follow a similar route and launch his own social media platform, consisting of enhanced free speech values. Other platforms such as Gettr have been launched but have so far not put a dent in the social media giants.

It seems that the entrepreneur who is number one on the Bloomberg billionaires index would rather affect change from within. This is instead of going against these titans of the social media industry. One of the first hints at change from inside, was when Musk asked users on Twitter if they would like an edit button. In response, 73.6% replied yes to the Twitter user’s question.

Shortly after Twitter announced they are working on an edit button but denied the idea came from the poll. In another poll, one day prior to asking if Twitter rigorously adheres to free speech, he asked if the Twitter algorithm should be open source. In this poll, 82.7% replied yes.

Speculation on why Elon Musk has invested in Twitter

As evidenced by many interviews, Elon musk has put serious thought into artificial intelligence and how algorithms can be used for social engineering. In broader conversations about technology, he has stated that A.I is much more dangerous than nuclear warheads. Perhaps he has put serious thought into curtailing A.I, starting with algorithms on Twitter.

However, his investment in Twitter Inc could be just the start of his social media takeover. His passive stake in Twitter ultimately lead to him becoming a board member. However, other social commentators do not believe he will take an aggressive ownership role. As it has been shown that he knows how to leverage the media, some social commentators have suggested that it is merely a publicity stunt.

What the passive investment means remains to be seen. Does he plan to help people communicate freely? Does he plan to stop the advancement and manipulation from A.I technology? Does he see this as a worthy investment to make money? Or, is it all just a publicity stunt? Time will tell.

However, although the 9.2% passive stake makes him the majority shareholder, he does not have complete control of Twitter. Musk a frequent user of the platform himself, may not have the power to affect the change he desires. Musk will sit on the board until 2024 and in that time he is limited to a maximum stake of 14.9%.

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