The world's richest man is now in control of one of the world's biggest social media platforms.
SpaceX CEO and billionaire Elon Musk officially took the helm of Twitter Thursday (Oct. 27) "with brutal efficiency", according to Reuters, including firing CEO Parag Agrawal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde.
"The bird is freed," Musk tweeted Thursday (Oct. 27), adding "let the good times roll" after closing the $44 billion acquisition he had fought in the summer. (Musk had been trying to back out of a hostile takeover he initiated in April, alleging there were too many bots on the platform.)
Musk made the $44 billion purchase final on the eve of a deadline imposed by a Delaware Chancery Court judge, who was overseeing litigation between Musk and Twitter concerning the deal. If Musk had not closed Twitter's purchase by today (Oct. 28), the court was expected to initiate a date in November to start a trial.
Musk agreed to restart his purchase deal on Oct. 4 amid reported "great distrust on both sides" (to quote the Washington Post) between the billionaire and the company. The day before, Musk tweeted out a proposal to bring Russia's invasion of Ukraine to an end and asked his followers to vote on the matter.
Musk's acquisition will likely influence the Nov. 8 midterm elections, warned the Washington Post Thursday, pointing out the platform's disproportionate influence in movements like #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, the Arab Spring and Donald Trump's presidency.
Musk is expected to lift many of Twitter's recent content restrictions, including inviting Trump back to the platform. The former president was banned following the Jan. 6, 2021 invasion of the Capitol by rioters that resulted in five deaths.
This month, a House committee issued a subpoena to Trump amid an investigation to determine the former president's role in the events. Trump's lawyers accepted service of the subpoena Wednesday (Oct. 27), according to CNN, and have until Nov. 4 to turn over requested documents and Nov. 14 to testify.
Related: Elon Musk is a genius, Trump says
How Musk will shape Twitter and its estimated 400 million users, which in turn will influence how information is spread in social media, the news cycle and politics, is also a matter of controversy.
In June, Musk informed Twitter employees that they should let "pretty outrageous things" be tweeted as long as the information was not illegal, a report in the Guardian said at the time. A roundup of comments on Vox Thursday (Oct. 27) also shows Musk promising to make Twitter a "free speech" platform.
Musk's comments on social media attracted negative attention at SpaceX a few months ago. A group of anonymous employees said their CEO's "behavior in the public sphere is a frequent source of distraction and embarrassment for us", in an open letter posted in an internal Microsoft Teams channel with more than 2,600 employees, according to a Verge report on June 16. At least five SpaceX employees were fired after this incident, the New York Times reported the next day.
In June, Musk (also Time Magazine's 2021 person of the year) denied an allegation of sexual misconduct with a flight attendant in 2016, as first reported by Business Insider. His behavior on Twitter has included, according to media reports, crude jokes, insults and a 2018 incident in which he implied a man involved in rescuing Thai boys from a flooded cave was a pedophile.
Elizabeth Howell is the co-author of "Why Am I Taller?" (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), a book about space medicine. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for Space.com for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace