Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is now the largest shareholder in social network Twitter. Documents published on April 4 by the regulator of the American Stock Exchange show that Mr. Musk acquired 9.2% of the shares of the social network, for a value of approximately 2.9 billion dollars (2.62 billion euros ). This takeover, carried out on March 14 in all discretion by the multi-billionaire, created a surprise – the value of Twitter action rose 27% on Monday on the New York Stock Exchange.
Mr. Musk, very active on Twitter, is one of the most influential personalities on the social network – with 80 million subscribers, his account is among the ten most followed. The messages, often mocking, sometimes cryptic that he publishes there can cause major fluctuations in the price of a share or a cryptocurrency.
Social Network Policy Influencing Strategy
The announcement had all the more effect as it seems to be part of a thoughtful strategy to challenge the current policy of Twitter management. On March 25, the polemical entrepreneur launched a poll: “Freedom of expression is essential to the functioning of democracy. Do you believe that Twitter strictly adheres to this principle? » In this consultation without scientific value, the no won by more than 70%. In the process, the founder of Tesla asked his fans what should be drawn as consequences, even if it was necessary “create a new social network”.
Two days earlier, he had asked if Twitter’s algorithms needed to be upgraded. “open-source”, which would make their code accessible and editable. This software notably manages the display of tweets judged to be the most relevant and interesting, depending in particular on the number of people who have interacted with them. However, the user has the choice with the traditional display of Twitter, in reverse order.
Jack Dorsey, the founder of Twitter, who no longer holds any responsibilities in the company, has also often criticized his platform and suggested changes. Also unpredictable and atypical, the entrepreneur also answered one of Elon Musk’s polls with the question : “The choice to use (or not) the algorithm of their choice should be up to the user. » Mr. Dorsey has been advocating for two years the idea of opening content classification algorithms to third parties. These developers, companies or individuals, could offer their version and Twitter users could choose the algorithm of their choice, in a kind of market place.
“Censorship” and rapprochement with Donald Trump
This partial takeover can also have important political consequences in the United States, and even in the world. Historically considered a libertarian close to the left, Elon Musk has gradually multiplied more or less discreet signs of support for Donald Trump. In early 2021, after Donald Trump’s Twitter and Facebook accounts were shut down following the attack on the Capitol, the ex-president’s son appealed to Mr. Musk to “save freedom of expression” in “creating a social network that is not biased (in favor of the Democrats)”.
Since then, Donald Trump has launched his own social network, “Truth Social”, currently only available on iPhone in the United States, and mired in technical problems. The criticisms formulated by Mr. Musk towards Twitter seem in any case to join those of the Republicans and Mr. Trump towards Facebook, its subsidiary Instagram or the subsidiary of Google, YouTube: these digital giants have been accused of “censor” conservatives, especially after the deletion, in January 2021, of Mr. Trump’s account, following messages challenging the election, before the storming of the Capitol.
“Given Mr. Musk’s longstanding criticism of Twitter and social media, it was expected that he might seek to build a competing platform, explains Dan Ives, an analyst at investment bank Wedbush Securities. Instead, he seems to set his sights on Twitter. We see this passive involvement as just the start of broader conversations with current Twitter executives. These exchanges could lead to a more active role and a more aggressive takeover of the company. »