Elon Musk is proceeding with a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion, the original purchase price agreed upon in April, amid an intense legal battle between the two sides.
The billionaire businessman is reversing course from his previous attempts to back out of the deal, where he argued that Twitter wasn’t truthful about the number of bot accounts on the platform. Twitter denied those claims and sued Musk to force the sale to go through.
Here’s what we know about Musk’s renewed effort to buy Twitter.
Musk wants to avoid a highly publicized trial
As part of his proposed deal to buy Twitter for $54.20 per share, Musk demanded that Twitter drop its lawsuit against him.
A trial before a Delaware court is scheduled to take place in just two weeks. Musk’s demand comes after the court released a trove of his private text messages and just before Musk was set to be questioned under oath by Twitter lawyers on Thursday.
At Twitter’s request, the court last week released a 40-page document of texts between Musk and other well-known figures, including former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, that appeared to portray his Twitter takeover bid as rushed and disorganized.
Texts between Musk and Bret Taylor, the chairman of Twitter’s board of directors, revealed that Musk was well aware of the bot account issue, potentially worsening his legal position.
“This is hard to do as a public company, as purging fake users will make the numbers look terrible, so restructuring should be done as a private company,” Musk wrote in a text.
Musk’s most recent proposal is contingent on adjourning the upcoming trial and all other legal proceedings related to the buyout. That would prevent the court from releasing more of Musk’s texts, including his communications with a Twitter whistleblower who alleged that the social media company lied about the number of bots on its platform.
Twitter’s politics could shift under Musk
Musk has said he’s buying Twitter to boost “free speech” and has signaled he’ll overhaul Twitter’s policy of removing posts it considers dangerous and adding disclaimers to posts that are deemed misinformation.
He’s pushed back on permanent bans of Twitter users, including former President Trump, who was banned from the platform following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“Would be great to unwind permanent bans, except for spam accounts and those that explicitly advocate violence,” Musk texted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal earlier this year.
Musk tweeted earlier this year that he will vote Republican in November, citing Democrats’ criticism of him and “a very cold shoulder” toward his companies Tesla and SpaceX. Musk later tweeted that he is leaning toward supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for president in 2024.
Musk’s takeover would fundamentally change Twitter’s user base. When he initially agreed to buy Twitter in April, hundreds of thousands of users deactivated their accounts, while leading GOP figures gained tens of thousands of new followers.
Republican lawmakers and right-leaning commentators have praised Musk’s bid to buy Twitter, arguing that the app is currently biased against conservatives. Left-leaning groups and Twitter employees have expressed concern that he will turn the platform into an unregulated “swamp.”
“In effect, Musk will turn Twitter into a fever swamp of dangerous conspiracy theories, partisan chicanery, and operationalized harassment,” Angelo Carusone, president of the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters for America, said in a statement.
Musk would overhaul Twitter’s business model
Musk wants to expand Twitter into an all-purpose app that users rely on for messaging, shopping, video gaming and web browsing, like China’s hugely popular WeChat app. Under his proposed plan, Twitter could take a cut of digital payments made on the app to boost revenue.
“Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” Musk tweeted Wednesday.
Musk has expressed envy toward TikTok’s algorithm that keeps users hooked on the app and wants to transform Twitter into a creator-friendly platform that relies more on video. He’s also said that users should be able to choose their preferred algorithm.
Musk has pledged to rid Twitter of spam and bot activity by authenticating real users. Twitter has admitted to overcounting its number of real users but estimated that less than 5 percent of daily users are bots.
Former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko alleged in August that the platform inflated the number of real users, stating that executives received multimillion-dollar bonuses for boosting daily users. Zatko said he was fired for warning about security vulnerabilities that pose a threat to user data, while Twitter said he was fired for poor performance.
Musk has openly criticized top Twitter executives, including Agrawal, throughout the legal battle. Analysts expect Musk to shake up the company’s leadership if the deal goes through, but it’s unclear who he would bring on to replace them.