As the sun rose on the East coast this morning, an SEC filing revealed that Elon Musk has offered to buy 100 percent of Twitter at a price of $54.20 per share. This unsolicited offer would total approximately $43.4 billion — about 18 percent higher than the company’s market cap at close on Wednesday. It’s also about 26 percent less than the stock’s high point over the last year, at $73.34.
“Twitter has extraordinary potential,” Musk wrote in a letter to Bret Taylor, chair of the Twitter board. “I will unlock it.”
The idea of Musk taking Twitter private is shocking in its audacity but not exactly unexpected. Since the beginning of the year, Musk has purchased nearly a 10 percent stake in the company, and Twitter even offered him a seat on the company’s board. (He ended up turning down the seat in an almost comical about-face.)
While there are about a thousand reasons why Musk’s hostile takeover would be an awful idea, there’s a little voice whispering in the background: Just let him do it. Twitter’s mission to be the world’s largest public forum has already failed — so who cares if Elon fucks it up now?
Twitter sucks — Twitter has changed significantly in the last decade, and in almost every way this evolution has not been for the better. When co-founder Jack Dorsey left his post in November, the platform he’d built was entirely out of control. Twitter’s algorithms, which attempt to surface tweets relevant to personalized interests, had turned into a misinformation machine, spreading political opinions — many not based in truth — in uneven ways that even Twitter couldn’t understand.
The Twitter of today is a ludicrously large, tangled beast, and, as such, the company behind it has been forced to spend huge amounts of time putting out as many little fires as it possibly can. Almost every new “feature” is just another tiny fire extinguisher.
We don’t even need high-level analysis or criticism to understand how far Twitter has fallen. Just log in at any time and you’ll see users tweeting about how much they hate being there. The smoke is unavoidable.
So much for moderation — Giving Musk sole ownership of Twitter would fundamentally change the platform. Whether any of those changes would be useful or good is moot in this discussion; more important is the fact that Musk will be able to do whatever he wants. Musk’s vision becomes Twitter’s vision.
If his recent tirades are anything to go off of, Musk is most concerned about what he sees as Twitter’s hampering of free speech. Musk believes he should be allowed to tweet as many Hitler memes as he wants. He believes censoring propaganda is always the wrong move.
These ideals would likely be paramount on Musk’s list of changes to Twitter policy. At its extreme, this might look like ending Twitter moderation entirely, thereby allowing misinformation and other dangerous content to spread spectacularly.
Burn it down — Elon Musk is not going to “save” Twitter, but neither is anyone else. If Twitter has proven anything in the last few years, it’s that it’s unfixable.
But hear me out: If Twitter is already burning down, wouldn’t it at least be entertaining to watch Musk turn it to ashes even faster? Would it really be so bad if Musk pulled a Parler and ruined his $43 billion investment for good?
This offer is almost certainly a distraction from Musk’s many legal troubles and known mistreatment of workers. It’s also an escape route for those of us who need a strong excuse to delete our accounts. It’s an easy way to make room for something better to rise from Twitter’s ashes. Pour some oil on that money, Elon. We’ll bring the popcorn.