Elon Musk Takes 9.2% Stake in Twitter After Hinting at Launch of a Rival

Twitter stock surged 20% in pre-market trading

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Tesla founder Elon Musk has taken a 9.2% stake in Twitter to become the company’s biggest shareholder, according to a filing Monday with the Securities Exchange Commission.

The move was announced about one week after Musk criticized the social media platform for “failing to adhere to free speech principles” and cryptically asked, “Is a new platform needed?”

Musk’s stake is worth nearly $2.9 billion, based on Friday’s market close. The company’s share price surged 20% in pre-market trading on Monday, to $39.31 per share.

On March 25, the billionaire entrepreneur joined the debate on censorship on major social media platforms, first posting a Twitter poll centered on the question: “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?”

Roughly 70% of Musk’s 79.2 million Twitter followers soon weighed in with a resounding “No.”

Following the results, Musk wrote, “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?” In a follow-up tweet, he questioned whether a new platform would be necessary to restore free speech.

Musk has long been a critic of attempts by Twitter — and the SEC — to rein in posts on social media citing free speech concerns. He is currently seeking to end a 2018 deal with the agency about what he can tweet about his electric car maker, Tesla.

Last December, one month after Parag Agrwal took over as Twitter’s CEO from founder Jack Dorsey, Musk posted a meme depicting Agrawal as Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin and Dorsey as Soviet secret police head Nikolai Yezhov.

Censorship on Twitter has long been a hot topic of debate, particularly in conservative circles that accuse the platform of a liberal bias in cracking down on users for terms of service violations. The issue of censorship came to a head following the Capitol insurrection, which saw the platform permanently ban former president Donald Trump, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence.”