Meet Twitter’s Newest Board Member: Elon Musk
Billionaire investor and entrepreneur Elon Musk joined Twitter’s board of directors last week, fostering hope among Republicans that he could push the platform towards political neutrality and end the site’s censorship of conservative voices including former President Donald Trump.
“[Musk is] both a passionate believer and intense critic of the service which is exactly what we need on @Twitter, and in the boardroom, to make us stronger long-term. Welcome Elon!” tweeted Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal.
Elon Musk’s stake in Twitter rose to 9.2% (equivalent to 73.5 million shares) with a purchase last Tuesday, making him the company’s largest shareholder and earning him an invitation to join the board of directors. His purchase, which sent Twitter shares up by more than 25%, came roughly one week after he questioned the platform’s commitment to free speech:
“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy…Is a new platform needed?”
The comment was well-received by Musk’s Twitter followers (of which there are nearly 80 million), with conservatives like radio host Buck Sexton and press secretary to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) Christina Pushaw encouraging him to buy the platform outright. “Buy Twitter or please build one,” tweeted Sexton. “Save the country from these psycho Silicon Valley libs.”
Musk initially said that his stake in the company would remain passive, but later told reporters that he is looking forward to ‘making significant improvements to the site.’ Among his first moves as a board member was to conduct a poll asking users whether Twitter “rigorously adheres” to the principle of free speech.
More than 70% of the survey’s 2 million respondents said no.
Musk conducted a second poll asking users whether Twitter should have an “edit button” allowing users to make changes to existing posts. More than three million people participated in the poll, which was announced through a tweet with intentional misspellings of “yes” and “no.”
Musk could have used an edit button himself in August 2018 when he tweeted, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” His post was intended as a joke (referring to April 20th as a cannabis holiday), but ended up costing him and his shareholders millions of dollars.
Musk said he would prefer an “edit window” that is available for a few minutes after posting rather than an edit button.
Giving users the ability to alter existing tweets presents a host of problems given the platform’s status as a sort of historical log for comments made by celebrities and politicians and could change the very nature of the site.
For these reasons, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said the platform probably wouldn’t adopt an edit feature. Dorsey, one of the platform’s 12 board members, added that he’s wanted Musk on the board “for a long time.”
Elon Musk’s new role will expire in two years, during which time he is banned from owning more than 14.9% of the company’s stock. During that time, we hope to see Twitter relax its content moderation policies. Twitter recently announced it would not allow any images of POWs related to the Russia/Ukraine conflict or any content from a government account belonging to a state that limits its citizens’ access to information.