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Elon Musk now leading Twitter, ushering in likely changes to online speech

The move ends months of tension between Twitter and Musk after the mogul first offered to buy the platform in April, then tried to pull out weeks later.
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Elon Musk is now leading Twitter, according to CNBC.

Two top Twitter executives, CEO Parag Agrawal and Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal, were also out, CNBC reported.

Musk first made his $44 billion offer to acquire the social media platform in April, then sought to pull out of the deal weeks later over concerns about its volume of fake and spam accounts. Twitter ultimately sued Musk for breaching the original agreement, and Musk countersued, alleging fraud.

The two sides had been scheduled to meet in a Delaware courtroom this month to settle the dispute before Musk resubmitted his original $44 billion offer, without explanation.

Musk could not be reached for comment, but he said in a tweet late Thursday "the bird is freed." In a statement, Twitter said it planned to close the deal at the original agreed-upon price.

What happens after Musk gets the keys

The deal promises to reshape a major forum for speech online just before the Nov. 8 midterm elections. Musk, from the start of his takeover bid, sketched out a vision for Twitter that includes looser rules for what people can say.

“We want to have the perception and the reality that speech is as free as possible,” he said at a conference in April. 

The next month, Musk said he would reverse Donald Trump's permanent ban from the platform. The former president had earlier said he would not return and would instead remain on his Truth Social network.

Beyond those statements, Musk has not provided much detail about how he might rewrite Twitter’s rulebook, which prohibits posts that threaten violence, engage in targeted harassment or use hateful images or symbols. Looser rules could scare away some users and advertisers.

Musk vowed Thursday on Twitter to prevent the platform from becoming a "free-for-all hellscape" and to "adhere to the laws of the land," while striving to make it “warm and welcoming to all.”  

Users, he said, should be able to choose “your desired experience according to your preferences, just as you can choose, for example, to see movies or play video games ranging from all ages to mature.”

Musk said he personally reached out to one high-profile celebrity, Ye, formerly Kanye West, this month to express concern about his comments attacking Jewish people.

But Musk has also said he wants to see more tweets from celebrities and other people with large followings on Twitter, some of whom have scaled back their use or switched to rival platforms, such as Instagram or TikTok. Reuters reported Tuesday that Twitter continues to lose its most active users.

Twitter shares rallied ahead of the deal announcement, reaching their highest level of the year Wednesday, at nearly $53, a market cap of nearly $41 billion. Twitter shareholders overwhelmingly voted last month to approve the deal.

Even as the agreement becomes official, it is raising concerns among Twitter employees about the future of the company. After The Washington Post reported that Musk plans to lay off as much as 75% of Twitter's staff, a group of workers signed a letter saying the layoffs would “hurt Twitter’s ability to serve the public conversation.”

“A threat of this magnitude is reckless, undermines our users’ and customers’ trust in our platform, and is a transparent act of worker intimidation," they said. The company's general counsel sought to reassure employees by calling reports of the alleged plan for layoffs "rumors."