Elon Musk turns down Twitter

News

What is going on between Elon Musk and Twitter? If you’re wishing you could be a fly on the wall in chief executive Parag Agrawal’s office right now, you’re not alone.

Musk’s sudden decision to no longer join Twitter’s board marks a significant U-turn just days after he became the social media company’s biggest shareholder and was offered a seat. So far he has not been as forthcoming about why he no longer wants a seat among Twitter’s key decision makers.

There are multiple theories as to why Musk is now rejecting a board seat — here are five questions we have.

Does Musk plan to buy a bigger stake in Twitter?
Buying Twitter stock was not a snap decision for the Tesla founder; he built his stake up over a period of time. If he had gone through with joining Twitter’s board, he would have been limited to holding 14.9 per cent of the company’s stock, making it much more difficult for him to acquire more shares and eventually stage a takeover.

Did things fall apart because Musk and Twitter don’t share the same values?
The tech billionaire has been a vocal campaigner for free speech, taking aim at the company’s content moderation policy. His views jar with the efforts Twitter has taken over the past few years to combat disinformation and harassment on the platform (as flagged by Twitter’s own staff). A less toxic environment matters to users, but also to the advertisers that are Twitter’s main source of revenue.

Was Musk asked to rein in his public criticisms of the company as a condition of joining the board?
Recently deleted tweets by Musk include suggestions to give people who sign up for Twitter Blue, the company’s premium service, an authentication checkmark, to delete the “w” in Twitter and a proposal that the company convert its San Francisco headquarters into a homeless shelter “since no one shows up anyway”. On Monday, he “liked” a tweet that said he became the largest shareholder “for free speech” but “was told to play nice and not speak freely”.

Was Musk ready to take on the responsibility (and the restrictions) that come with being a board member?
Musk would have been beholden to fiduciary duties and would need to demonstrate that he’s always acting in Twitter’s best interests. His long history of posting controversial tweets makes it hard to imagine him being willing to censor his own opinions, even if they could cause embarrassment for the company.

How does Twitter’s CEO really feel about Musk?
Agrawal has described Musk as someone who would bring “great value” to the company and also said that it’s “for the best” he’s not joining the board. Both cannot be true — so what’s behind Agrawal’s U-turn on having Musk on the board? Fear of a takeover, being unable to control Musk, or staff anger? Take your pick.

The Internet of (Five) Things

1. GoTo raises $1.1bn in one of the largest listings in Indonesia’s history
Shares in GoTo, the Indonesian company that offers everything from ride-hailing to payment services, surged 14 per cent in their first day of trading, bucking a global decline in technology stocks in a welcome reprieve for early investors SoftBank and Alibaba.

2. Why Amazon won’t be delivering your packages by drone just yet
Billions of dollars and a decade later, Amazon’s delivery by drone program still isn’t off the ground — here’s why it’s going nowhere.

3. Shopify proposes 10-for-one share split
Canadian ecommerce company Shopify is the latest tech group to announce a stock split, following Amazon, Alphabet and Tesla. But the voting power of its co-founder and chief executive Tobi Lütke will not be diluted under the share spilt proposal.

4. Yes, you have to pay tax on crypto 
A new survey shows most crypto owners don’t understand all of the scenarios in which they might owe taxes.

5. China approves new online games as crackdown eases
For the first time in nine months, Chinese regulators have approved new online games, a boost to hard-hit providers such as Tencent and Bilibili.

Tech tools — Zygo Solo headphones

Zygo Solo, $299 © Richard Rosen

Once upon a time, the swimming pool was one of the few places you couldn’t take your music. Not any more. You can now stream your favourite playlist or podcast as you get your laps in, thanks to this pair of waterproof bone conducting headphones ($299) that work by sending a signal via a FM radio transmitter. This device does need to be placed poolside, but it is a great option for swimmers as the signal penetrates water far more effectively than Bluetooth.

Tech week ahead

Monday (until Thursday): Expert speakers on education, business, science, tech, the arts and global issues gather at the flagship TED conference in Vancouver.

Tuesday: Non-fungible token fans will meet in Paris for NFT Day, a conference focused on the Web3 ecosystem.

Saturday: Miami Tech Week starts.

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