Elon Musk, the world’s wealthiest man, reached out to Parag Agrawal, the chief executive of Twitter, a few weeks ago with a polite heads-up about the company. Mr. Musk said that he was purchasing shares in the social media firm and that he wants to talk about how to make Twitter better.
According to their public interactions, Mr. Musk had ideas for changing social networks that aligned with those of Mr. Agrawal and Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter. All three have floated the idea of significantly changing power in social networking away from big corporations and toward consumers, by using a technological approach that would allow people to have more control over what they see in their social media feeds.
According to two individuals with knowledge of the talks who were not allowed to speak publicly, Mr. Agrawal suggested having Mr. Musk become a more active player in Twitter’s future in the following weeks. According to one of the persons who spoke with Mr. Agrawal, Mr. Musk, who has more than 80 million Twitter followers and tweets a dozen or more times a day, would be a welcome addition to the company’s board of directors.
Twitter said on Tuesday that Mr. Musk, 50, would be named to the company’s 11-member board of directors for a term that would end in 2024. That came as a result of the news on Monday that Mr. Musk had amassed a 9.2 percent stake in Twitter, making him the company’s most significant stakeholder. A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows that Mr. Musk has committed not to possess more than 14.9 percent of Twitter’s shares or to acquire control of the business, which is located in San Francisco, according to the document.
Mr. Musk’s, Mr. Dorsey’s, and Mr. Agrawal’s views in unrestricted free expression are consistent with the strategy. Mr. Musk has criticised Twitter for censoring its platform in an overly restrictive manner, and he believes that greater freedom of expression should be permitted. In the same way, Mr. Dorsey expressed his displeasure with the decision to ban former President Donald J. Trump from Twitter last year, saying he did not “cheer or feel pride” in the decision. Agrawal has said that public discourse has an intrinsic benefit for society, which he believes is true.
These individuals’ perspectives have gradually become outliers in a worldwide discussion about free expression online, as more and more people have questioned if too much free expression has facilitated the spread of disinformation and divisive material.
Mr. Musk has the potential to cause turmoil on Twitter. Using the service as a barbed-wire fence, he has been harassing Tesla short-sellers and disparaging critics for years. His misinformation on the epidemic has also been widely disseminated. Following his tweet in 2018, in which he expressed interest in taking Tesla private and falsely stated that he had secured finance for the deal, he was fined $40 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The views of Mr. Musk’s vision for free expression may conflict with the policies of Twitter, which are intended to govern conversations around the world, according to David Kaye, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine who previously worked with the United Nations on speech issues, and who previously worked with the United Nations on speech issues, have raised concerns.
According to Mr. Dorsey, who resigned from his position as chief executive of Twitter in November, users should have greater control over the postings they see in order to be able to make their own moderation decisions. In a tweet sent out last week, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the internet has been centralised by companies.
The Bluesky project, funded by Mr. Dorsey in 2019, is an effort to develop new infrastructure for the social media industry that would give users greater control over their information, such as curating the most popular tweets with their own algorithms and allowing them to move their data to other platforms.
Meanwhile, Mr. Musk has experimented with technologies that allow for decentralisation of control. With the help of Silicon Valley entrepreneur Sam Altman and other investors, Mr. Musk launched an artificial intelligence lab called OpenAI in 2015. He said at the time that his business would be publicly sharing its discoveries with the whole world. Mr. Musk eventually left the firm for reasons that remain unclear.
It is unknown if a decentralised Twitter will be able to come together. As a result of the time-consuming process of redesigning the whole platform, it might take years before it is fully operational.
According to a business filing, Mr. Musk, who has a net worth of more than $270 billion, had amassed a stake in Twitter of more than 5 percent by March 14. Then he started to express more of his opinions on Twitter and free expression on the platform, including in exchanges with Mr. Dorsey.
Earlier this week, in one of his first tweets after the announcement of his investment, Mr. Musk conducted another Twitter poll, this time asking people if they wanted the ability to edit tweets, a feature that many users have unsuccessfully demanded.
Mr. Agrawal chimed in with a tweet that said, “The implications of this poll will be significant. ” Please use caution before casting your vote.” Later, the firm said that it has been working on an edit function since last year and that it will be testing it shortly after.