Elon’s Already Daring Twitter to Break Off the Deal

Elon’s Already Daring Twitter to Break Off the Deal
The sale terms of Musk's deal with Twitter restrict him from disparaging the company or its representatives. Has anyone told him that? (Illustration: Scott Olson, Getty Images)

Elon Musk — the tech billionaire known for talking smack and trolling on Twitter — isn’t allowed to publish tweets about his deal to take over Twitter if he belittles the company or its representatives, according to a new filing on the transaction submitted by Twitter to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.

First spotted by Bloomberg, the SEC filing provided new information on the terms of the social media network’s sale to Musk. The company submitted the filing the same day Musk criticised top Twitter executives Vijaya Gadde and Jim Baker, which prompted a barrage of personal, and in some cases racist, attacks and calls for them to be fired by Twitter users. He posted a meme Wednesday afternoon mocking Gadde and praising right-wing podcaster Tim Pool. Musk also seemed to call out Twitter for being topped by former President Donald Trump’s Truth Social network in number of App Store downloads.

“Truth Social is currently beating Twitter & TikTok on the Apple Store. Truth Social (terrible name) exists because Twitter censored free speech,” he wrote. “Should be called Trumpet instead!”

In contrast to Musk’s meme invective, Twitter wrote in its filing, “Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Equity Investor shall be permitted to issue Tweets about the Merger or the transactions contemplated hereby so long as such Tweets do not disparage the Company or any of its Representatives.”

The same day, Musk lost a case against the SEC over a fine and a consent decree. The order mandates that any of Musk’s tweets that could move stock prices must be pre-approved, lest he face more multi-million dollar fines imposed by the SEC. The SpaceX CEO had tweeted “funding secured” after declaring that he planned to take Tesla private at $US420 ($583) (lol) per share when he did not, in fact, have the funding to do so, causing the stock price to jump.

Musk targeted Gadde — a female executive who was born in India and serves as Twitter’s legal, public policy, trust, and safety lead — in response to a tweet from Breaking Points co-host Saagar Enjeti citing a recent a Politico story about her: “Twitter’s top lawyer reassures staff, cries during meeting about Musk takeover.” The outlet reported that Gadde had cried while speaking about how Twitter could change under the direction of its new owner.

Enjeti called Gadde the social network’s “top censorship advocate” and said she censored the New York Post’s story about the a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, the son of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden. Weeks before the 2020 presidential election, Twitter blocked the distribution of the Post’s story by preventing users from sharing links to it via tweets or DMs, a move which infuriated conservatives that claimed that the company was trying to help Biden win the election. In addition, Twitter also locked the news outlet out of its account for a while, a move it later reversed. Much of the outlandish story of the laptop was later proven true.

“Suspending the Twitter account of a major news organisation for publishing a truthful story was obviously incredibly inappropriate,” Musk tweeted in a reply to Enjeti.

Musk’s comment led to a barrage of tweets insulting Gadde and calling on Musk to fire her.

Gadde wasn’t the only employee that received attention from Musk on Tuesday, though. He also weighed in on another tweet brought to his attention by Mike Cernovich — a notorious right-wing troll, so-called men’s rights activist, and conspiracy theorist known for promulgating ideas such as #Pizzagate — regarding Twitter’s deputy general counsel Jim Baker, which claimed Baker facilitated fraud when he worked at the FBI.

“Sounds pretty bad … “ Musk tweeted in response.

Twitter’s ex-CEO Dick Costolo seemed to respond obliquely to Musk, writing “Bullying is not leadership.”

Unsurprisingly, Musk’s comment also led users to swarm on Baker and call for his removal.

The incidents underscore the worries that have been expressed by Twitter employees in recent weeks. Rumman Chowdhury, the company’s director of machine learning, transparency and accountability, said in mid-April that news about Musk’s involvement in Twitter and subsequent attacks by his followers had a “chilling effect” on employees.

“This is going to sound funny but Musks immediate chilling effect was something that bothered me significantly. Twitter has a beautiful culture of hilarious constructive criticism, and I saw that go silent because of his minions attacking employees,” Chowdhury said. She added: “That is certainly not the only thing – my rule #1 is ‘do not feed the trolls’ – people like him thrive on attention, including negative attention. I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction.”

Lara Cohen, Twitter’s head of global partnerships, tweeted, “Colour me shocked SHOCKED that people are coming for two of our prominent female executives on day 1 of this thing.”

Besides Chowdhury’s comments, The Washington Post reported that in an internal town hall with leaders on Monday, staff wanted to know how Twitter would protect the diversity of its staff considering that Musk has been sued for discrimination in the past. Employees also asked Twitter’s leaders how employees would be protected since Musk has a history of retaliating against workers, the outlet stated.

Twitter told Gizmodo that it had no comment on Musk’s tweets on Wednesday morning.

The company’s sale to Musk was announced on Monday after weeks of speculation. In the days since, Tesla’s stock has dipped, with shares falling 11% on Tuesday as investors reacted to news that Musk would take over Twitter. The downturn wiped nearly $US25 ($35) billion from Musk’s personal wealth and $US114 ($158) billion from Tesla’s market capitalisation, as noted by Forbes.

Musk secured financing for the deal via $US20 ($28) billion in loans from Morgan Stanley and another $US21 ($29) billion in equity financing, meaning he will probably have to sell Tesla shares to own the blue bird app.

Despite all this financial and digital turmoil, Musk is still the richest man in the world and continues to tweet to his heart’s content. I wonder if anyone’s told him he can’t disparage people. Sadly, even if someone did, something tells me Musk probably wouldn’t care.