Elon Musk recently purchased 9.2% of Twitter stock, according to a filing on Monday, which makes him the largest shareholder of the company.
News of the filing sent Twitter shares soaring 22% in early trading, which pushed up to 25% by Monday afternoon. Musk did not disclose what he paid for the shares, but his stake was worth $2.9 billion as of the close of trading Friday, and $3.5 billion after the spike early Monday, according to Fox News.
The purchase comes after Elon Musk had been voicing concerns over free speech on Twitter in recent weeks. “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy,” Musk wrote in a Twitter poll. After asking whether Twitter adheres to this principle, 70% of respondents voted “no.”
“Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy,” wrote the Tesla CEO in a follow-up tweet. “What should be done?”
Given that Twitter serves as the de facto public town square, failing to adhere to free speech principles fundamentally undermines democracy.
What should be done? https://t.co/aPS9ycji37
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 26, 2022
The regulatory filing describes Musk as a long-term investor looking to minimize his buying and selling of the shares. “We would expect this passive stake as just the start of broader conversations with the Twitter board/management that could ultimately lead to an active stake and a potential more aggressive ownership role of Twitter,” Dan Ives of Wedbush Securities said in a client note early Monday.
Musk previously told his 80 million Twitter followers that he was “giving serious thought” to creating his own social media platform. Additionally, the tech mogul is currently involved in a bitter dispute with U.S. securities regulators over his ability to post on Twitter. Musk’s lawyer has contended in court motions that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is infringing on the Tesla CEO’s First Amendment rights.
Twitter has become notorious for its selective enforcement of TOS violations, oftentimes leading to partisan censorship. The company has started to ban political candidates in recent years, while sitting U.S. President Trump was infamously banned. Trump was barred from the platform while numerous hostile autocrats remain, highlighting just one example of Twitter’s selectively applied TOS enforcement.
Critics have long called for Twitter and other big tech giants to lose legal protections they enjoy as a platform, arguing that the companies act as a publisher.