Tesla CEO Elon Musk now owns 9.2 percent of Twitter according to a 13G filing released today, Bloomberg News reports. According to the filing, Musk purchased the stake on March 14th. Musk has long been one of Twitter’s highest profile users with over 80 million followers on the platform. Twitter’s share price was up over 25 percent in pre-market trading on the news.
Musk had been publicly calling into question Twitter’s approach to free speech via a poll conducted on his Twitter account on March 25th. “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” the CEO asked, before noting in a follow-up tweet that “the consequences of this poll will be important.”
The consequences of this poll will be important. Please vote carefully.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 25, 2022
“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” Musk tweeted the following day, before publicly asking whether a “new platform” is needed. Given that Musk purchased his stake in Twitter on March 14th, it appears as though these comments came after his decision to buy a stake.
Earlier in the month, Musk said he was a “free speech absolutist” after he claimed Starlink had been told by some governments to block access to Russian news sources. “We will not do so unless at gunpoint,” he said.
CNBC notes that Musk’s Twitter stocks were worth $2.89 billion based on Friday’s closing price. Musk’s shares are classified as a passive stake, but Wedbush analyst Dan Ives told CNBC that the purchase “could lead to some sort of buyout.”
Musk’s use of Twitter has occasionally gotten the CEO into hot water. In 2018 he infamously tweeted that he had secured the funds to take Tesla private if it reached $420 a share. Eventually it emerged that he had not secured funding for the sale, and Musk was forced by the Securities and Exchange Commission to have Tesla’s lawyers pre-approve any tweets about the company’s financial health, sales, delivery numbers, and more.