(San Francisco) Elon Musk has officially taken control of Twitter for $44 billion, ushering in an uncertain new era for this major influencer platform, under the leadership of the richest man in the world, who scares as much as it fascinates.
“Let the party begin,” tweeted the boss of Tesla (electric vehicles) and SpaceX (spaceflight), a big fan of provocations, on Friday. He had already launched “the bird is released” on Thursday evening, after having dismissed the management team of the Californian company.
The reactions, enthusiastic or disappointed, have multiplied, but the most resounding is that of General Motors (GM).
The automaker said Friday it was temporarily stopping paying for ads on Twitter, becoming the first major advertiser to question its presence on the social network.
“We are talking with Twitter to understand the direction of the platform under its new owner,” explained the group, a direct competitor of Tesla.
Elon Musk has set himself up as the ultimate defender of freedom of expression, raising fears of a resurgence of abuse (harassment, racism, misinformation) on the application.
In particular, he opened the door to a return of Donald Trump, ousted from Twitter after supporting his supporters who took part in the assault on the Capitol in January 2021.
However, brands, which represent the bulk of Twitter’s income, generally prefer to back their ads with consensual content.
GM’s decision therefore confirms the warnings that many observers have been making for months.
On Friday, the new owner tried to reassure by announcing the upcoming formation of a “content moderation council with very diverse points of view”.
“No major decision on content or account reactivation will take place without the intervention of the board,” said the multi-billionaire.
“The merger between Twitter and X Holdings II”, a company “controlled by Elon Musk, was finalized on October 27”, notified the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Friday morning. “All shares of Twitter were exchanged for $54.20 in cash,” she said.
Elon Musk had until Friday to complete the acquisition of the social network, failing which a trial was to take place in November.
The operation had indeed dragged on since the announcement at the end of April, when Twitter had reluctantly accepted the offer to acquire the entrepreneur, who then sought to get out of it.
The company’s board of directors had taken legal action, and earlier this month, days before the start of a lawsuit that Twitter looked set to win, Elon Musk finally offered to close the deal at the price initially agreed.
Thursday, Elon Musk tried to clarify his vision, saying he wanted to allow all opinions to be expressed on the site, without making it an “infernal” platform where everything would be allowed.
It is “important for the future of civilization to have an online public square where a wide variety of opinions can debate in a healthy way, without resorting to violence”, he wrote in a message specifically addressed to advertisers.
He also assures that he did not undertake this acquisition because it was “easy” or “to make money”, but to “try to help humanity”.
EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has warned the billionaire that Twitter will have to comply with new EU digital regulations that force major platforms to moderate their content.
“In Europe the bird will fly according to our European rules,” Mr Breton tweeted.
Twitter, which had 238 million so-called “active” daily users at the end of June, attracts a smaller audience than a giant like Facebook, but many policymakers, businesses and the media.
Financially, the game looks tight for a company that has always struggled to generate profits and will also have to repay the $ 13 billion loan taken out by Elon Musk for its takeover.
On Thursday evening, the new owner fired the platform’s boss, Parag Agrawal, and two other executives, chief financial officer Ned Segal and head of legal affairs Vijaya Gadde, according to several American media.
Ned Segal thanked his ex-colleagues on Friday for the “most fulfilling” period of his career. Twitter is able to “democratize communication and knowledge”, he tweeted. “It is a huge responsibility for all those who work in this direction. I wish them strength, wisdom and foresight,” he wrote.
Elon Musk also plans to lay off thousands of group employees, according to several American media.
The release of the Twitter rating gives him full latitude.
Earlier this month, however, he said it was “essential” that his flagship Tesla be listed on Wall Street, “because if the public doesn’t like what Tesla is doing, the public can buy shares and vote differently. “, adding, hilarious:” It is very important that I can not just do what I want. »