Boss of electric vehicle maker Tesla and spaceflight company SpaceX, Elon Musk put Twitter into orbit yesterday after making public a major stake in the social network, which it nevertheless accuses of restricting freedom of expression.
At 12:15 GMT, the action of the micro-blogging site soared about 20%, to 47.21 dollars, in electronic trading preceding the opening of Wall Street.
According to a document filed with the SEC, the American stock market regulator, Mr Musk, who is the richest man on the planet, acquired nearly 73.5 million shares of Twitter common stock, or 9.2% the stock market value of the company.
This makes him the largest shareholder in the group ahead of the investment fund Vanguard (8.8%) and the bank Morgan Stanley (8.4%), according to data from Bloomberg.
Based on Friday’s closing price of Twitter’s stock, the South African-born billionaire’s investment is nearly $2.9 billion.
Mr. Musk speaks very frequently on the platform, where he has just over 80 million subscribers.
His announcements on the tweet network frequently arouse controversy.
In the summer of 2018, he notably published a tweet where he claimed to have the appropriate funding to withdraw Tesla from the New York Stock Exchange, without providing proof.
After an unfortunate new publication in early 2019, he agreed to have his posts directly related to the electric vehicle maker’s business pre-cleared by the SEC.
The leader had also given up his position as chairman of the board of directors of Tesla.
In early March, however, Mr. Musk asked a New York judge to overturn the deal he made with the stock market constable over his tweets, claiming through his lawyer that the SEC was seeking to “harass Tesla and silence Mr. Musk”.
The billionaire boss is also critical of the measures put in place by Twitter to moderate certain content deemed inappropriate.
At the end of March, Mr. Musk published two polls on the social network, one to ask his followers if they thought that the Twitter algorithm should be in open source code (“open source”), the other to whether they believe the company respects freedom of expression.
Voters overwhelmingly answered “yes” to the first poll and “no” to the second.
“Given that Twitter acts as a de facto public square, its failure to adhere to the principles of free speech fundamentally undermines democracy,” the Tesla boss tweeted following the results.
“Is a new platform necessary?” he asked.
Twitter is regularly accused of censorship by many conservative voices in the United States, especially since the suspension of Donald Trump’s account last year.
Like Facebook and YouTube, the blue bird network believes that the former president encouraged his supporters to violence before the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
In response to his ousting, Mr. Trump in February launched his own platform, Truth Social.
In the document sent to the SEC (entitled “Schedule 13G”), Mr. Musk specifies that his stake, less than 10% of the ordinary shares, is passive, that is to say that he does not count not influence the major strategic decisions of the company.
But this entry into the capital could be the prelude to a more active role within the company, believe some experts.
“We expect this passive participation to mark the beginning of deeper discussions with Twitter’s management and board, which may lead to active participation and potentially more aggressive ownership,” Dan said in a note. Ives of Westbush Securities.
Contacted by AFP, Twitter did not react immediately.