Twitter logoTwitter has had a turbulent year. Sputnik takes a look back on how the Bird was let out of the cage, making a splash in the mediasphere across the world.Twitter changed hands in late October 2022 with Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, reshuffling the company’s leadership and concept. In December 2022, the billionaire lifted the veil of secrecy on Twitter’s censorship practices, questionable collaboration with the US government and federal agencies, and controversial role in the COVID pandemic. “To be totally frank, almost every conspiracy theory that people had about Twitter turned out to be true,” Musk summarized following the epic disclosure of the Twitter Files. So, how did it all begin?January 2022. Elon Musk started quietly purchasing Twitter stocks on January 31, 2022. By that time, Twitter had already gained notoriety by banning ex-President Donald Trump and many prominent conservative users, as well as routinely tagging and flagging posts questioning the results of the 2020 presidential election, COVID’s origins, and the efficacy of vaccines.March 2022. Musk began openly criticizing Twitter over free speech suppression. On March 25, he created a poll. “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” he asked. 70.4% of Musk’s followers voted “No.”© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot of Elon Musk account.Twitter screenshot of Elon Musk account.April 2022. The Tesla CEO announced that he had acquired 9.2% of Twitter’s shares, totaling $2.64 billion, which made him the company’s largest shareholder. Musk took to Twitter and asked users whether they want an “edit button” added to the platform.Meanwhile, Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal announced that Musk would be appointed to Twitter’s board of directors and hailed the development. However, the Tesla CEO rejected Agrawal’s proposal, and on April 14 offered to buy the platform instead for $44 billion (amounting to $54.20 per share in cash). In addition to that, Musk made it clear that following the acquisition, Twitter would be transformed as a private company. He noted that since making his investment he had realized that the platform would neither thrive nor serve its free speech goal in its current form.In response, Twitter’s board of directors made an attempt to block Musk’s takeover. However, after 10 days, in a sudden change of heart, the company’s leadership agreed to strike a deal with Musk. They confirmed that after the deal was closed, the billionaire would be the sole owner of the company.© Photo : Twitter/@elonmuskElon Musk Announces to Defeat Spam Bots after AcquisitionElon Musk Announces to Defeat Spam Bots after AcquisitionMay 2022. Before proceeding with the deal, Musk said he wanted Twitter to verify the number of bots. The Tesla CEO suspected that the number of fake and spam accounts could be 20% or even higher. In response, Parag Agrawal asserted to the billionaire that the figure was well under 5%, something Musk immediately threw into doubt. Spam bots or fake accounts are created to artificially boost and manipulate activity on social-media platforms.”My offer was based on Twitter’s SEC filings being accurate,” Musk tweeted. “Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO publicly refused to show proof of <5%. This deal cannot move forward until he does.”Musk has repeatedly criticized Twitter over its bots and spam accounts singling out cryptocurrency spam bots as the platform’s most annoying problem. In the wake of the spat, Twitter’s shares went down.June 2022. Musk threatened to terminate the deal over bot accounts data on June 6. His lawyers accused Twitter Inc. of “resisting and thwarting [Musk’s] information rights” under the agreement to buy the social media service. The company’s “refusal” to disclose the number of fake accounts amounted to a “clear material breach” of the deal, the lawyers claimed.For its part, the Twitter leadership signaled that they wanted to finalize the deal: “We intend to close the transaction and enforce the merger agreement at the agreed price and terms,” they pledged.Elon Musk Terminates $44 Bln Twitter Deal8 July, 21:32 GMTJuly 2022. Musk informed Twitter Inc. through his lawyers that he wanted to end his $44 billion deal. “Mr. Musk is terminating the Merger Agreement because Twitter, in material breach of multiple provisions of that Agreement, appears to have made false and misleading representations upon which Mr. Musk relied when entering into the Merger Agreement,” the letter said.In response, Twitter’s board chair Bret Taylor made a statement that the board is committed to closing the transaction on the price and terms agreed upon with the Tesla CEO, and that it planned to pursue legal action “to enforce the merger agreement.” “We are confident we will prevail in the Delaware Court of Chancery,” Taylor stressed. The row again backfired on the company’s shares which went down 6%.On July 13, Twitter followed through on its promise to sue Musk. On July 19, a Delaware court ruled that Twitter’s lawsuit against Elon Musk for attempting to end his acquisition of the company will be heard on October, 17.Americas’The Bird is Free’: Will Musk Tear Down Twitter Jail’s Wall and Let Sputnik Out?28 October, 15:55 GMTOctober 2022. Musk sent a letter to Twitter on October 3 proposing to follow through with his deal to buy the company at the originally agreed upon price of $54.20 per share.”Buying Twitter is an accelerant to creating X, the everything app,” Musk tweeted on October 4. The news sent the platform’s shares up over 20%. Eventually, it topped $51 a share approaching the price agreed upon by Musk and Twitter’s board for the first time in months.Delaware Chancery Court Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick, the judge overseeing the dispute between Musk and Twitter, ruled on October 6 to pause the legal proceedings until October 28, following the Tesla CEO’s motion which cited “changed circumstances.””If the transaction does not close by 5 pm on October 28, 2022, the parties are instructed to contact me by email that evening to obtain November 2022 trial dates,” Judge McCormick said in the order.On October 26, Musk walked into Twitter’s headquarters carrying a sink (“Let’s sink it,” he tweeted) and immediately fired Twitter CEO and other executives. On October 27, Musk and Twitter closed the deal.“The bird is freed”, Musk tweeted on October 28.AmericasTwitter CEO Musk’s Pro-GOP Tweet Balances Years-Long Bromance Between Big Tech and Dems 8 November, 14:07 GMTNovember 2022. On November 7, Musk endorsed the GOP for the midterm elections and urged US netizens to vote Republican. “Shared power curbs the worst excesses of both parties, therefore I recommend voting for a Republican Congress, given that the Presidency is Democratic,” Musk tweeted, advocating power balancing.© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot of Elon Musk post on on November 30, 2022.Twitter screenshot of Elon Musk post on on November 30, 2022.The same month, Musk began the layoff process at the company. “In an effort to place Twitter on a healthy path, we will go through the difficult process of reducing our global workforce on Friday,” the internal memo said. According to some estimates, 3,700 employees were fired.On November 17, hundreds of Twitter employees started resigning en masse after the deadline set by Musk that required employees to decide whether they wanted to be part of “hardcore Twitter 2.0.” As the number of resignations went up, Twitter closed its office buildings and suspended badge access.© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot of Elon Musk account.Twitter screenshot of Elon Musk account.Simultaneously, reports emerged alleging that Musk had told a Delaware judge that he plans to “reduce his time at Twitter and eventually hire someone else to keep things running.” Reportedly, he also told investors that he would only stay on as Twitter CEO temporarily.On November 20, Musk asked his followers in a Twitter poll if former US President Donald Trump should be allowed back on the platform. The former president was “permanently” banned on Twitter following the January 6, 2021 protests and a breach into the Capitol building in Washington, DC. The poll’s final result showed 52% to 48% in favor of the Trump account’s restoration.
"The people have spoken. Trump will be reinstated. Vox Populi, Vox Dei," Musk tweeted, citing a Latin phrase meaning "the voice of the people is the voice of God." After that, Trump's account reappeared on the platform.
© AP Photo / Evan VucciPresident Donald Trump talks with Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, center, and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon during a meeting with business leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017President Donald Trump talks with Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, center, and White House chief strategist Steve Bannon during a meeting with business leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017December 2022. December was marked by a massive exposure of the Twitter Files, comprising internal emails, messages, chat logs, and other documents. Musk provided access to the trove to investigative journalists and authors, including Matt Taibbi, Bari Weiss, Lee Fang, Michael Shellenberger, and David Zweig.On December 2, Musk promoted the release of Twitter Files. To date, eight batches of Twitter Files have been released, shedding light on the platform’s sweeping censorship practices and suspension of undesired users; its communications with the FBI, CIA, and other federal agencies; the US government’s meddling with the platform; and Twitter’s censorship of information about COVID-19 that was inconvenient to the US government and which elevated the positions of public health authorities regardless of veracity.AmericasTwitter Files: FBI’s Infiltration of Big Tech is Step on Path to Totalitarian State, Journo Warns24 December, 12:41 GMT”The United States government pressured Twitter and other social media platforms to elevate certain content and suppress other content about COVID-19,” Zweig wrote on December 26. “Whether by humans or algorithms, content that was contrarian but true was still subject to getting flagged or suppressed.”Even though the Western corporate media has largely ignored Musk’s expose, it has reverberated through the Internet worldwide. According to the Twitter owner, he acquired nothing short of a “crime scene.”© Photo : TwitterTwitter screenshot of Elon Musk account.Twitter screenshot of Elon Musk account.On December 19, criticism from some users and liberal celebs over Twitter’s new policies prompted Musk to run an informal poll asking whether he should step down as CEO. He promised to abide by the results. Most voters – including, purportedly, bots – said “yes.” Still, according to Musk, it’s important to find a CEO that will keep Twitter “alive” and adhere to sacred free speech principles.Even though Twitter has seen a bumpy start under its new owner, Musk’s contribution to the effort to uphold free speech can hardly be overestimated. 2023 may bring new challenges, but still, reflecting on Twitter’s takeover, one could say: it was worth it.