Hours after it was revealed that Elon Musk was making an audacious bid to acquire the social platform Twitter, the Tesla CEO admitted he is ‘not sure’ his bid will succeed.

The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX revealed in a regulatory filing on Thursday that he had offered to buy Twitter for $41 billion in cash, saying the firm he has often criticised in the past, needs to go private to see effective changes.

The SEC filing revealed that Musk is offering $54.20 per share, which represents a 38 percent premium to Twitter’s 1 April close – the last trading day before Musk’s more than 9 percent stake in the company was made public.

Free speech

Twitter meanwhile has confirmed it had received the bid but its board must still review the offer, which values shares much lower than the $70 they reached last summer.

Twitter’s CEO Parag Agrawal told staff that the company was evaluating the approach.

Elon Musk defended his offer to purchase Twitter on Thursday, saying during an on-stage interview at the TED2022 conference in Vancouver that he sees the acquisition as nothing less than a turning point for civilisation.

Musk said the proposed deal is not about the economics of Twitter’s (TWTR) business, but about ensuring Twitter remains a trusted platform for democracy.

“This is not a way to make money,” Musk was quoted by CNN as telling TED chief Chris Anderson. “My strong intuitive sense is that having a public platform that is maximally trusted and broadly inclusive is extremely important to the future of civilisation.”

Musk once again hit out at what he saw as a lack of free speech on Twitter, and said Twitter should open-source its algorithm to increase transparency in the company’s content moderation decisions.

“The code should be on Github so people can look through it and say, ‘I see a problem here,’ ‘I don’t agree with this,’ they can highlight issues, suggest changes,” Musk was quoted by CNN as saying.

Asked how he would change Twitter’s content moderation, Musk explained that his test for whether a platform adheres to free speech principles is simple: “Is someone you don’t like allowed to say something you don’t like? And if that is the case, then we have free speech.”

Musk mused that if a tweet were particularly controversial, perhaps the company should not promote that tweet, but added, “I think we want to be very reluctant to delete things and just be very cautious with permanent bans; timeouts are better.”

Musk acknowledged that even if he purchased the company, there would still be errors.

“I think everyone will still blame me for everything,” he said. “If I acquire Twitter and something goes wrong, it’s my fault, 100%. I think there will be quite a few errors.”

Plan B?

During his interview, Musk also admitted that he is “not sure” he will actually be able to buy Twitter.

“I am not sure that I will actually be able to acquire it,” he said.

According to CNBC, when asked by TED’s Chris Anderson if there was a “Plan B” if his current offer were rejected, Musk said, “there is.”

He declined to elaborate, but Musk recently said he was giving “serious thought” to building a rival platform, before he was revealed he had acquired a 9.2 percent stake in the firm.

If Musk is successful in his bid, besides ensuring free speech on the platform, his other top priority would be ridding the platform of “spam and scam bots.”

“My offer is my best and final offer and if it is not accepted, I would need to reconsider my position as a shareholder,” Musk warned in his SEC filing. “Twitter has extraordinary potential. I will unlock it.”

Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal claimed that he has a long term stake in Twitter via his investment firm Kingdom Holding Company, which holds 5.2 percent of Twitter.

He rejected Elon Musk’s proposed bid, saying it doesn’t “comes close to the intrinsic value of Twitter given its growth prospects.”

Musk immediately replied asking how many Twitter shares Prince Alwaleed’s firm owns, adding: “What are the Kingdom’s views on journalist freedom of speech?”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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