This is the end of the first week after Twitter accepted Elon Musk’s $44 billion buyout offer, and one of the strangest tech transactions ever just keeps adding twists and turns. A detailed report of The Wall Street Journal has peeled off a few layers of the process that began when Musk picked up Twitter shares in January and what that might mean when he eventually closes the deal and takes ownership. Taken with additional information from The edge contributing editor Casey Newton in platform game and a new report from Reutersthe picture starts to get clearer.
Reuters adds more details to previous reports from Bloomberg and The Washington Post about the ideas Musk pitched to bankers who will lend him some of the money he needs to buy Twitter. According to Reuters’ sources, he told bankers that he plans to develop revenue-boosting features, and one of his examples is “taking a fee when a third-party website tries to cite or embed a tweet from verified individuals or organizations.”
As the outlet notes, in some now-deleted tweets from earlier this month, Musk discussed reducing Twitter’s reliance on ads to monetize and suggested changes to the Twitter Blue subscription, such as banning ads. Reuters also reports that Musk has reportedly already appointed a new CEO to take over from Parag Agrawal, citing a source saying he won’t make any job cut decisions until he actually takes ownership of the company.
That doesn’t match much we now know about Elon’s plans once he takes over, but according to Casey Newton’s report in his platform game newsletter at Twitter’s all-hands meeting early Friday, it would be more than the company’s executives and board members knew before voting to accept the takeover bid. Newton writes, “Agrawal even said executives hadn’t even seen the plans for the company that Musk allegedly shared with bankers.”
But how did we actually get here, right? The Wall Street Journal has some color to offer there, citing a “shadow squad” that was excited about Elon Musk’s bid on Twitter, including his fellow ex-PayPal exec Peter Thiel (who funded Ted Cruz’s first primary run for the Senate) , right-wing blogger Charles C. Johnson (who has previously sued Twitter), and Seth Dillon, the CEO of The Babylonian Bee, which the paper describes as a “right-leaning satirical publication modeled after The Onion.” Those links could explain things to anyone confused by a right-wing resurgence of activity on Twitter and statements from figures who have banned accounts from the platform, such as Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene or Donald Trump, about the possibility of returning.
Much of the article, however, focuses on close ties linking Elon Musk to Twitter co-founder and now former CEO Jack Dorsey, despite the latter’s eventual decision to ban Donald Trump from the platform and Musk’s choice to represent himself in a single tweet with the sentence “I fart the art.” The WSJ reports that Dorsey, who was CEO of two companies at the time, occasionally “appeared to be remote in meetings” as he messaged Musk.
*it is also crazy and wrong that individuals or companies should bear this responsibility. As I’ve said before, I don’t believe a permanent ban (excluding illegal activities) is right, or should be possible. Therefore, we need a protocol that can withstand the above layers.
— jack⚡️ (@jack) April 29, 2022
After the article was published, Dorsey posted a thread of tweets despite “trying to take a break from Twitter recently.” Dorsey said: “Every decision we made was ultimately my responsibility*. In cases where we were wrong or went too far, we admitted it and tried to correct it.”
This sudden impulse to take public responsibility included a tweet in response to a question about Twitter temporarily and confusingly banning links to a New York Post story about President Joe Biden’s son, where… he now says“When I found out we were taking that action, we reversed it almost immediately. we should have also reinstated the account without having to delete the tweet.”
Taking responsibility also comes two days after the future owner of Twitter / Dorsey’s messaging buddy responded to a tweet criticizing Twitter policy and legal head Vijaya Gadde about the incident, calling the action “obviously incredibly inappropriate” and tweeting a meme that he claimed the company was “left”. wing bias’ on which was her face. Financial times correspondent Dave Lee points out that this was followed by a spate of hateful tweets aimed at Gadde.
For Jack, the key point seems to be, “I don’t believe a permanent ban (excluding illegal activities) is right, or should be possible.” For reasons that may be buried deep in a texting thread with Elon, Dorsey believes this is the solution Twitter needs to quickly learn and improve in ways it’s never done before.