It’s official: Elon Musk is set to buy Twitter.
The social media giant confirmed Monday the Tesla CEO and billionaire will acquire the company in a deal worth $44 billion. Once the deal is complete, which is expected by this year, Twitter will become a privately held company.
“Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” said Musk in a statement. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”
Shares of Twitter rose more than 5% in afternoon trading Monday.
Earlier Monday, Musk said: “I hope that even my worst critics remain on Twitter, because that is what free speech means.”
Last week, Musk said he had lined up $46.5 billion in financing to buy Twitter and had been continuing to negotiate with the company.
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Musk has criticized how strictly Twitter moderates content on its platform. “Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Do you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle?” he tweeted this month.
Musk has scooped up a 9% stake in the company, which made him Twitter’s largest shareholder earlier this month. Twitter responded by announcing plans to have Musk join its board of directors. That deal would have prevented Musk from owning more than 14.9% of Twitter’s outstanding stock for as long as he’s a board member and for 90 days after.
“I invested in Twitter as I believe in its potential to be the platform for free speech around the globe, and I believe free speech is a societal imperative for a functioning democracy,” Musk said in the proposal. “However, since making my investment I now realize the company will neither thrive nor serve this societal imperative in its current form. Twitter needs to be transformed as a private company.”
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How will Musk deal affect Twitter users?
Experts are still trying to figure out what Musk actually wants to do with Twitter.
Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives told USA TODAY on Monday that he thinks a deal could get done within the next 24 hours, if not sooner.
“The Street basically thinks it’s a done deal,” He said. The board’s back was against the wall and their feet to the fire. They had to negotiate with Musk when a second bidder failed to materialize and now the clock has struck midnight.”
Scott Kessler, global sector lead for technology media at Third Bridge, said in a statement that “it seems that major changes are ahead for Twitter if Musk succeeds, but the specifics at this point are pretty lacking.
“Musk has tweeted about the importance of free speech and an ‘edit button,’” Kessler added. “He wants people with big Twitter followings to become more active on the platform. He favors monetization through subscriptions versus advertising.”
Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, a nonprofit media watchdog group, said in a statement that Musk buying Twitter would be “a victory for disinformation and the people who peddle it.”
Carusone believes that Musk could “unleash a wave of toxicity and harassment” and undo Twitter’s efforts to increase quality engagement and attempts to make the platform safer for users.
“This potential deal is about much more than the future of Twitter,” Carusone said. “A sale to Elon Musk without any conditions will pollute the entire information ecosystem by opening the floodgate of hate and lies. Twitter’s board needs to take this into account now before the deal is done.”
Contributing: Scott Gleeson, Maria Jimenez Moya, The Associated Press
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @brettmolina23.