In an apparently early demise to a tumultuous relationship, Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk informed Twitter Friday that he wants to end his $44 billion deal to purchase the social media platform.
This signals the likely end — though the parting of ways is hardly simple — of a transaction that sent the left into collective shock. Musk often calls himself a “free speech absolutist” and was accused of preparing to bring the dark night of fascism to the internet.
No less a civil libertarian than Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) worried that, by not censoring political opinions, Musk would “literally turn upside down” how people communicate. It was to be “dangerous for our democracy.”
Democracy defined here as spreading leftist propaganda and electing Democrats.
Technology analyst Amber Mac sounded the alarm that there could be users who believe they are “potentially unsafe on Twitter.”
The letter signaling the end was sent to the company’s chief legal officer. It was disclosed in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, and it claims that Twitter did not “comply with its contractual obligations.”
Musk attorney Mike Ringler said the billionaire attempted for two months to get sufficient data to measure “fake or spam” accounts on Twitter. In the letter to the company, Ringler said Musk’s requests were either ignored, denied for unjustifiable causes, or resulted in delivery of partial or unusable data.
The numbers were necessary, Musk believed, to validate the number of bot or spam accounts and assess Twitter’s true value.
The split between Musk and Twitter is by no means simple, even with the $1 million breakup fee agreed to early on. The likelihood is high that a protracted legal battle will begin shortly, as the company announced it is still committed to consummating the transaction.
Twitter board chair Bret Taylor said the agreement will be pursued “on the price and terms agreed upon” through legal action.
Wall Street responded with a thumbs-down for Twitter and a thumbs-up for Musk’s Tesla, both before and after the letter was released Friday. The social media giant lost 5% while Tesla shares gained 2.5% during the day, and the momentum continued into after-hours trading.
The courtship that began in late March and early April seems certain to come to a messy end. If Musk is successful in walking away, it is a disappointing close to both a fascinating and promising endeavor.