After months of sabotaged commitments, legal back-and-forths, new public disclosures, agita over bot armies, and text-message dumps, the Elon Musk–Twitter debacle has officially circled right back to where it started. That’s right, folks: On Tuesday morning, Bloomberg News reported that the Tesla CEO now says he will purchase Twitter—just like he said he would back in April—at the originally agreed-upon price of $54.20 per share, coming out to $44 billion total. The whole ordeal that kicked off after Musk attempted to renege on the Twitter deal—citing problems with “bots” and company transparency—was set to culminate in a highly anticipated court battle later this month. Since Twitter has apparently taken the offer, there’ll be no need for that now.
Even if you’ve been close-reading this misadventure throughout, it’s probably a bit disorienting to grapple with such a sudden conclusion. In the wake of everything that’s happened, who really wins out here? What did we learn throughout those pointless six months? Who wanted this whole thing to happen, and who’s really excited for it to finally, finally go down? Below, a surely incomplete list of the key people who are psyched for Musk to own Twitter—as well those who are, well, not. After all, no matter whom this pleases, one thing’s for sure: Musk’s own supposed commitment to “free speech” means he won’t escape his harshest critics anytime soon.
Excited About This
Twitter executives: This outcome is likely a huge relief for the Twitter C-suiters behind this deal. The tangle with Musk has brought out all sorts of ugly facts about the company: financial weakness, serious allegations of national security issues and fraudulent practices, weakened public use of and trust in the platform. But hey, it’s not these guys’ problem anymore—and they’ll get paid out for their shares.
Donald Trump and the American right wing: No ideological group has been more pleased with Musk’s purported goals for Twitter than the American conservative movement, given Musk’s off-and-on criticisms of liberal censorship and nattering on about the need to protect “free speech” on social media. Many right-wingers believe they’re disproportionately “censored” on Twitter, not least due to the banning of then-President Donald Trump following the Capitol insurrection. Musk has said he believes Trump was unfairly booted from Twitter and that the network has a left-wing bias; the right agrees.
India, along with other authoritarian regimes: As I wrote at the time, Twitter’s current leadership sued the Modi administration in July over its numerous censorship requests as well as its treatment of and threats to Indian Twitter workers. Many journalists and activists have called this lawsuit an existential moment for global free-speech rights. But Musk has stated that he would have Twitter follow individual countries’ social media laws, which likely means he wouldn’t resist any especially repressive ones, such as Turkey’s. Hence, it’s possible his Twitter wouldn’t carry the suit forward, nor would he counter the Indian government’s most brazen censorship requests. Other authoritarian leaders are watching.
Guys and dudes: As my colleague Jonathan L. Fischer wrote, one key takeaway from Musk’s text-message trove is that he has basically no one in his life to dissuade him from potentially bad ideas, or at least this particular one. As a result, all of the extremely prominent tech guys and celebrities on his rolodex—Larry Ellison, Joe Rogan, Marc Andreesen, Jack Dorsey, a Murdoch son, and more—are no doubt psyched this has gone through. They have different agendas: Dorsey wants to make Twitter a protocol, not a company; others want to invest in Musk’s takeover; others are fixated on ending what they see as censorship. Congrats, bros!
Edit button fans: Musk is definitely among this legion, so he’ll presumably ensure the completion and deployment of the new edit-button prototype Twitter’s been testing. Still, users should be careful what they wish for.
The Delaware court system: Judges there are probably happy to get back to more pressing matters.
The Ratio: Is Musk’s abrupt turnaround proof of the power of numbers and digital mobilization?
Very Unhappy About This
Bot armies: Foiled again, thanks to that meddling Musk!
Indians, along with others living under repressive rulers: India’s most persecuted groups—religious and racial minorities, lower-caste peoples, journalists, anyone to the left of the ruling party—have a lot to fear from a social network that, under Musk, might not even try to push back on government censorship orders and could, instead, allow bigoted vitriol to run rampant. As one local tech activist told the Washington Post in May: “Twitter under the pre-Musk era had begun to be more active in addressing online harassment and hate speech. … I’m afraid under Musk, the hate speech we see will be allowed to fester and grow.” Again, other social media–censoring regimes are watching.
Disinformation fighters: Twitter has an infamous mis- and disinformation problem, and those who are worried about it are unlikely to be reassured by the leadership of a man who spreads plenty of false and misleading information himself, including and especially about his own companies.
Twitter employees: Workers have not been happy about the prospect of Musk taking over the company, much less the public disarray this ownership tussle has sparked. They were dissatisfied with remarks he gave at a personal town-hall meeting in June and are reportedly fleeing the company in “absurdly high” numbers. “For sure, people started to leave because of Elon,” a former employee told Insider in August. It’s safe to assume they know he doesn’t really do a great job handling internal dissent.
Tesla shareholders: Aye yi yi.
Ukraine: The entire Ukrainian executive branch seemed to have it out for Musk on Monday after he tweeted a poll asking whether the country should cede some of its territory to the invading Russians. We can likely expect more profanity to be sent his way.